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, February 22, 2015

No. 77, Blurring the Pencil Lines: 2D Animation in Today's Independent Films

As digital animation technology matures and disseminates down even to one-person studios like my own, the distinction between 2D and 3D animation becomes less clear--less easy to sort into just two piles and often less easy to identify in viewing.

A film may be animated on paper, then scanned in and completed digitally.  A very similar looking film may be animated directly into digital form, by using an electronic stylus and a Wacom or other tablet, but still adhering to the traditional process of superimposition of images for registration and then either animating straight ahead or by the more controlled method of extremes, breakdowns and inbetweens.

A traditional 2D film can be processed and enhanced digitally to the point that it greatly resembles something done with 3D models in Maya or another similar 3D program. Conversely, a film animated with CGI models can now be rendered to look like it was animated on paper. Then there is the increasingly dominant TV production method of 2D digital puppetry. And there are now numerous examples of hybrid productions, where some elements are singled out to be created as CGI models while others are still done in 2D, the output of both being blended in the production.

But just for fun, let's see what traditional 2D elements we can discern in the nine Oscar contender films I listed last week.

The Plainly 2D

Bus Story



Me and my Moulton

The most obviously and directly 2D are Bus Story, Duet, Me and my Moulton and Footprints. They all show signs of having been animated on paper.  In Bus Story, Duet and Footprints, one can even see the character of pencil lines in the final render, although I wouldn't be too surprised to learn than someone has developed some automatic and logarithmic way to convincingly duplicate even that look.

Me and my Moulton looks inked in the same way that hand-traced cels used to look inked, but I would bet that this was all done in a computer.

The 2D, 3D Hybrids
The Dam Keeper
An interesting crossover is The Dam Keeper, with a final render style that looks like impasto paints applied with a large chiseled brush. And I rather thought that the characters were CGI modeled. According to online information, however, the drawings were on paper and the painting was digital.  I do think I saw some CGI images here and there, as with the tramcar and the mill interior.

Even with the Disney funded Feast,  I am not sure there is anything done on paper beyond the concept stage. But I have not found anyway production details about this film.  Anyone out there know?
The Unabashedly 3D
Of the three remaining, I feel certain that two are straightforward CGI model productions: A SingleLife and Sweet Cocoon, though the former has opted for a look that is somewhat in the clay animation style of a Nick Park.
A Single Life

Sweet Cocoon

And a Big Hand for Stop Motion
Last, and in many ways most interesting of the whole group, is the extraordinary stop motion film The Bigger Picture.  It is extraordinary in its intended audience, which is emphatically adult; it its scale, which is actual size (a character who is intended to represent a six foot man is actually six feet tall in from of the camera); in its variety of media, including wet, opaque paint on a wall and other flat surfaces, papier maché and real furniture and rooms as props and settings.
The Bigger Picture

So there you are.  But just now, as I type this, it is 5:06pm, Pacific Time, and that's time to go watch the Oscars presentations and see who wins!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

No. 76, Animated Short Subjects Oscar Contenders 2015

Today I got a chance to go and see all 5 nominees that made the final cut for Oscar contention in the Animated Short Subject category, plus 4 runners-up.  Let's take a look at what we have here.

The Five Nominees

Me and my Moulton.  14 minutes. Director: Toril Kove. Canada.

2D animation with possible computer assist.  Simple and charming line art about 3 daughters of eccentric Norwegian parents, narrated by the middle girl.

Feast. 6 minutes. USA.

From Disney, a digital film directed by Patrick Osborne about a foodie dog and his foodie owner.  Clever and full of life, with an unusual lighting treatment that is high contrast and sharp edged. Typical Disney character design and movement.

A Single Life. 2 minutes. Netherlands. Directors: Marieke Blaauw, Joris Oprins, Job Roggeveen.

The shortest by far of these short films, this is a succinct and quite funny digital film with a character design based on stop motion clay animation.  My pick to win.

The Dam Keeper. 18 minutes.  USA. Directors: Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi.

A perplexing digital film with a flawed storyline about an orphan pig who is both a bullied child in school and an adult burdened with an onerous responsibility for his whole town. The rendering style is painterly and ragged with some quite beautiful color design.

The Bigger Picture. 17 minutes. UK. Director: Daisy Jacobs.

An unusual stop motion film in a combination of kinetic painting and papier maché animation, about two grown men and their elderly mother.  Touching and funny and strange.

The Four Also-Rans

No explanation is given for the selection of these four films which have been included to be distributed with the five nominees.  Whether they were jury favorites or just easily available is not mentioned. Nevertheless, here they are.

Sweet Cocoon. 6 minutes. France.

Hilarious and well-animated digital film about an overweight caterpillar who gets help in getting into her ready-made coccoon  from two elderly beetles.

Footprints. 4 minutes. USA.

2D animation in the unique and highly personal style of Bill Plympton, whom I applaud for making a go of 2D animation while personally not liking his work very much.

Bus Story. 11 minutes. Canada.

2D animation in a primitive style reminiscent of Richard Condie, this film sponsored by the National Film Board of Canada tells the story of a woman whose modest dream is to drive a school bus.

Duet. 4 minutes. USA.

A film by the Disney-trained virtuoso 2D animator Glen Keane, about a boy and girl growing up from babyhood and finally and inevitably coming together as a couple.

Next: Blurring the Pencil Lines: Traditional 2D Animation in 2015 Oscar Entries