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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

No. 40, Scanner Trouble, Part 2: My Solution

If you recall, I had complained here about the fact that my upgrade to Mac OS 10.8, known as Mountain Lion, had rendered my Mustek large format scanner useless: no drivers available!

My scanner was, in the words of another online complainant, no better than a doorstop--a dead weight.

My goal was to try to find a fix for this other than replacing the scanner itself.

First, of course, I tried software.  Nothing worked, including VueScan, where I actually talked to the owner, who said that scanner drivers are notoriously badly written.  Mustek's website said to go to Apple and get a driver from them, but there was nothing there.

Then I thought: what if I could get an old Mac that was still running on an earlier operating system, and dedicate it to the scanner?  And that is what I did.  The scanner is now paired with an iMac running Snow Leopard.  I did still have to download a driver for that, but it worked.

The Mountain Lion is tamed!

Now I am happily back in business!

A special thanks to David Nethery, who posted a comment just a few days ago suggesting both Vue Scan, which he didn't know I had tried, and the fact that Brother makes a couple of scanners that might have done the job for me, had I found it necessary to replace the Mustek.

Monday, May 20, 2013

No. 39, Problem Six: Fox Bites Nose (Part 5)

For the next couple of weeks I will be working on my website,, to update it, make it easier for me to change by using, and increasing its search engine optimization.  Meanwhile, here is a pencil test that came out right the first time!

Take One

Here I had to make the woman react as the fox bit and held onto her nose.  This called for a violent "take" of some kind, as she is struck by the shock (and some pain!) of being bitten by the cute little fox.  Takes are not something I have been much called upon to do in my career, so I looked in Richard Williams' book The Animator's Survival Guide at some classic formulae for takes which he had learned from animators of the Disney and Warners studios.

 The anticipation is on two's, then the upward "take" has two inbetweens on one's, followed by a "settle" on two's.  I cut to blank frames at the end because I want to cut away to a closeup at that point, without first going into a hold, and this shows me that the poses read well.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

No. 38, Problem Six: Fox Bites Nose (Part 4)

A Reminder:

As this blog is focused on detail and the small decisions that accumulate to make a larger picture, in these posts we will often examine short sections of a scene instead of the whole scene.  This helps keep the presentation concise and clear.  However, I want to remind you (and myself) that normally it is best to look at an entire shot or scene all at once, to judge its rhythm and pacing. I hope that in your own animation work, you will not lose sight of this important idea.

Bad, Not-So-Bad, Better, Best

This time we will look at a part of the action of the woman.  The man holds the fox in his hands, having just lowered it down from his head, and the woman has moved in close.  At the beginning she is looking at the man.  She then turns to the fox and reaches out her hand to tickle him under his chin.

I have four pencil tests to show you.  The first one I call...

The Bad

If there is one bad habit I am most often guilty of, it is that of making my rough drawings too detailed before testing the action even once.  When it works, it works, but when it doesn't, then I have unnecessarily wasted a lot of time and effort.  This is an example of that.  The poses looked good to me, I didn't see how it could go wrong, and so I spent a lot of time drawing detailed hands, for instance, because I thought the animation was a sure thing.

It wasn't.  The head and body work fine, but in this first test I could see that the arms and hands are not saying what I want to say.  The left hand passes too close to her nose on its way to reach out to the fox, and the right hand makes a fluttery gesture that only distracts viewer attention from the main action.

The Not-So-Bad

Right hand fixed.  Left hand has been changed so that there is much more drag; the wrist leads the hand.  At first I thought this might be too theatrical a gesture for this character, but she is about to admire the cute little fox, so she is in a playful mood.

But now, as often happens when you change one thing, something else becomes apparent that needs to change.  The action in this test begins and ends with holds.  Everything begins moving all at once, and everything also stops all at once at the end.   It goes against the good advice that, going into a hold, everything should not arrive all at once.  This is something that people will notice, or at least it is something that will ring false even if they don't know why.  Rather than appearing to be alive, the character looks robotic and mechanical. (I did think that  the tickling movement of the finger that will begin as soon as her left hand comes to rest might be the overlapping movement I needed, but now I see a need for more overlap.)

The Better

Now the unfurling of her left hand has been delayed and finishes after her body and right hand have come to rest.   You can still see the  ghost images of the hand where they have been erased from other drawings.

To fill out the delayed movement of the left hand, I tried a moving hold of her fist, but it isn't working right.

The Best

I changed the left arm so that it moves in close to the body in an anticipation of the main movement.  This works pretty well now and I am happy with the result.

Pencil testing sometimes goes like this, through four or more versions before the scene looks and feels just right.  Other times, the animator hits it right the first time through.  In this case, the main thing I did wrong was to draw in too much detail before the rough movement was proven in pencil test.

"LET THAT BE A LESSON TO YOU!" the director (I) shouted at the animator ( me.)

Let it be a lesson to you, too.