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, February 19, 2013

No. 31, Problem Five: Bringing the Fox Down (Part 3)

Adding the Fox Himself

Last time we saw the fox, he was nothing more than a rough stand-in looking like a bad drawing of a stuffed toy.  Let's see that again:
Scene 13_3

Thinking about what the fox might do as I looked at this test, I immediately had some wild ideas.  Although I had basically kept the man's head upright and steady, there was some movement and even a little tilt.  This is something I could have some fun with, I thought, and I did a few thumbnails.  Here is one idea:
But then I, as Animator, knew what I, as Director, would say.  (It was as if he and I were the same person!)  He'd say, "There isn't really time for this much action, and furthermore, you don't want the fox upstaging the movement of the man.  You have to tone it down, and keep it simple!"  And he would have been right, of course.  Also, I realized that this kind of thing was out of character for the fox, whom I had begun to see as Mr. Cool.  Like Bugs Bunny, this fox is usually in complete control.

I went to work then animating the fox.  There were a few tests and adjustments, because it can be more difficult to animate with restraint than with wild abandon.  But finally I felt I had what I wanted.  Here is the test I next presented to the Director:
Scene 13_5

So, the fox reacts to the movement, but he remains seated and basically unruffled until the man picks him up.  I thought it was a good solution, and the Director agreed.

"Yes, I think you've got it here!" he said with enthusiam.  

And yet I was still worried, because he kept running the test over and over, staring intently at the screen.  Then he started looking at the ending frame-by-frame, until finally he turned to me and said, "There is something you might do..."

"What's that?" I asked, finding it hard to keep the annoyance out of my voice.

"Oh, it's just a little thing, but I think it will be worth doing.  Look, I'll give you a hint.  It's something between drawings 83 and 91 that you could improve. Take a look and see if you can find it."

We sorted out the five drawings he mentioned and spread them on the desk.  They showed the middle of the arcing movement where the man brings the fox down from his head to waist level.  Here they are:
Drawing 83

Drawing 85
Drawing 87
Drawing 89

Drawing 91
I use the Disney-based system where drawings exposed on Two's are given odd numbers.  Thus, if you saw an even-numbered drawing, like 2 or 4, you would know it was a "One."

"Can you see what I am talking about?" says the Director.

"Uh, I'm not sure," I say.

"Let's look at them another way then," he says, and proceeds to stack all five drawings and peg them to an animation board, turning on the light so that we can see all five images at once.  That looks something like this:
I have added partial outlines in color to make the spacing clear.

"Do you see what I'm talking about now?" the Director says.  "Do you know what you ought to do?"

I smiled, nodding my head, and I went back to my drawing board to do what was needed.

 Do you know what the Director was talking about?

Next: The Answer

Sunday, February 10, 2013

No. 30, Problem Five: Bringing the Fox Down (Part 2)

Approving the Timing

Soon I was back with most of the drawings roughed in, and the Director and I looked at this second pencil test.

Scene 13_2

"Oh, this is coming along!" the Director says.  "The timing is looking pretty good."

I felt good about it now.  The timing did look good, I thought.  Still, I yearned to see the smoothness that I knew it would have with all the inbetweens there.  I went back and added them in, then shot another test.

Scene 13_3

At this, the Director only shrugged.  "No surprises here," he said.  "Yeah, it looks nice and smooth, but I knew that it would."

[I want to add a note here to explain how a pencil test for timing can be shot without all planned drawings present.  Suppose you have a section showing the first 9 drawings, with 1 and 9 being the extremes, as in the spacing chart below. 

Spacing chart for drawings 1 through 9

 In the pose-to-pose mode, you would have done those first, of course.   Then the breakdown, number 4.  Then the major inbetweens, 3 and 5.  That leaves drawings 2, 6, 7 and 8 undone.  To shoot a test without these, you have to compensate for the frames of the missing drawings.  So if all these movement drawings, 2 through 8, are meant to be exposed for 2 frames each, then you would expose drawing 3 for four frames, addiing in the frames that will belong later to drawing 2.  On the other end, you expose drawing 5 to include the frames for 6, 7 and 8 as well, or 8 frames.  Thus, whether or not you shoot just 5 drawings or all 9, the total will add up to 18 frames or exposures, and so the overall timing effect will not differ.

Note: Frames for drawing 2 were added to drawing 3, the succeeding drawing, while frames for drawings 6, 7 and 8 were added to drawing 5, the previous drawing.  This is because we don't want to add either amount of frames to the extremes, 1 and 9.  The reason for that is that you want to be able to clearly judge the impact of the extreme pose as planned, and the inadvertent addition of 2 to 6 frames could affect that judgment.]

Now back to our conversation between me, the Animator, and me, the Director...

I thought about it a minute and then I knew what he meant: adding a few missing inbetweens did not change the essential timing, which has to do with how long a pose or action is stressed, or how slow or fast something happens.  All that information had been available in the first test (Sc 13_2).  Adding all the inbetweens was only finessing what already had been stated.

Now the Director said, "You know what I want to see next, don't you?"

"The fox, I guess."

"That's right.  So far, the fox looks like a stuffed toy.  And that's fine, because the man's action here is the important thing, and you had to get that right.  But now I want to see you turn your attention to the fox and make him as alive as the man."

Next: Animating the Fox