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, December 28, 2015

No. 85, An Exercise in Character Design, Part 3: Within a Single Sheet of Paper

Undo or Erase

As I work on all the phases of animation production, I like to think about what goes on in the animator's head while working--in this case, my own head.

As I have discovered over the past few years in writing this blog, many things are easy to document and demonstrate in my blog posts because the proof of the process exists on paper or in the computer in easily accessed snapshots, including many changes that are made from beginning concept to finished artwork.

But what about those still finer changes that disappear from the world and even from one's memory once they are done?  These are the things we erase either with the undo or delete button on the computer, or, on paper, with a rubber or plastic eraser.  These things are gone forever, aren't they?

Eraser on the legendary Blackwing 602 pencil; "half the pressure, twice the speed."

Perhaps this need not always be so.  A few days ago, while working on a character design for my film, as I drew in pencil, it occurred to me that I could record the things I was about to erase by shooting them with my smartphone camera.  I could photograph an entire sequence of the minute progression of my own creative thought as I drew and erased, drew and erased and drew again.

Certainly this is not something I intend to do very much.  It is a lot of trouble, and it is disruptive in itself of the creative process. (One might imagine an automatic system, a surveillance camera looking  over the artist's shoulder, that would snap a picture every time the artist picked up his eraser.)

But this one time, I did do it, and for whatever it is worth, here is the result.

The first drawings.

The right hand is changed.

The right hand is drawn from the front.  Plus, a new arm is drawn
at the side, experimenting with a different look.

Masking off his right side, I try drawing in the structure
of the new arm on the character's left side.
But I do not like the way this looks; I don't like the hand being hidden by the leg.  Time to try something else...

Here I have designed a new front view hand, at right, and changed
the character's right hand to the same design.
Of course now the side view hand is
out of agreement with the front view, so...
...I redraw that to match in a turnaround.
Next I add a 3/4 view to see how it works with the others.
Looks good!

This was sufficient design for me to begin storyboards. But in the storyboard stage, I tried still other angles and continued to analyze the character design for style and functionality, and I made mental notes for more refinement.  Eventually I sat back down with this same sheet of paper on my board and did my revisions.
The "final" model sheet.  Since I am still in my storyboard phase, other changes are still possible.
Here you will see that I have added facial expressions and more angles of the head.  Also, I decided that he should look a bit more elegant, with a nice if slightly ill-fitting suit.  The jacket is longer, and the limbs are smoother.

The changes I have made here might have been done differently, with new copies of the drawing that incorporated the modifications rather than erasure and redrawing.  Many of these things could easily have been done in the computer, with the multiple stages being preserved in save as copies. But here is how a design can evolve as the artist's conception evolves, all within a single sheet of paper.


To my readers: I want to remind you that I value your presence on my blog, and I invite you to comment. It encourages me when I get interaction with you.  And for any of you who haven't yet done so, why not also become a Follower? (As I like to say, just because you are a follower doesn't mean you cannot also be a Leader!)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

No. 84, Adventures in Character Design, Part 2: Promotion from Within

In my last post on this subject (No. 82) I speculated that I might find the character I needed among the existing incidental characters in my storyboard of the original concept.

As I looked the drawings over, there was one in particular that I was attracted to. It was a frontal view of an old man, seated and holding his wife's hand.

First sketch of the old man character.

He was intended just as an extra, to be sitting in a row of airport chairs as my former protagonist moved past.  Unlike his wife, he was not even intended to be animated.  But as I looked at him I thought, what could be funnier as the bearer of an immensely heavy suitcase than a frail-looking old man?

Trying him from different angles showed his potential to move in 3 dimensions and allowed me to work out his body and head shapes and proportions.

In particular I needed to work out how he would look dragging his heavy suitcase by a thin length of rope.

Next we'll take a close look at what design changes can take place on a single sheet of paper--changes that are important to the character design process yet are unseen and forgotten steps to the final design.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

No. 83, Locked Out of Linked In Groups


Update: as of the new year, 2016, this issue has been resolved (or my period of exile ran out) and I am now able to post to my groups once again.

When you run a blog like this one, you want as many people to see it as possible.  And you don't want just anyone to see it; you want everyone with an interest in the subject matter to see it. Naturally, the greater readership you have, the more responsibility you feel to do a good job, and also the more satisfaction there is in blogging. So, you look for the best ways to get people (in my case, mostly animators) to notice it and take a look and, it is hoped, become a Follower.  Up until now, my best path for that has been the various Linked In groups for which animation is the focus.

Each time I posted to my blog, I would run a notice about it on relevant group sites, and typically I would get a surge in page views.  In this way, I have been gradually building up my readership.

Suddenly, however, I find that I am blocked from free access to those groups.

With a little checking, I found that just one complaint of impropriety, spamming or self-promotion, whether or not it was justified, was enough to get you blocked from a group. But in Linked In, this now pulls a trigger that blocks you from all your groups for an unknown amount of time.  This has now happened to me.  In some cases, my postings to the groups do show up on the group web page, but not in the periodic emails promoting activity in the group. On the internet, discussions of this problem by others who have felt unfairly blocked have revealed no good solutions or effective avenues of appeal.  One person suggested appealing to the group moderators, but many groups now do not list their moderators and their contact information, and anyway this would not clear the other blockages that have been automatically triggered. And Linked In has no editors or supervisors to whom to appeal for a review of one's situation.

As to the nature of my postings, are they inappropriate? Certainly not; they are targeted to the very narrow-interest groups most likely to want to see them, and their content is as free of socially questionable material as I can make them.  And also they are most definitely not spam, unlike the recruiting and job help postings that have been clogging group emails since I began my blog.

And what about self-promotion? Well, of course it is self-promotion, but no more so than a post by a young animator who wants people to look at his or her demo reel or animated sequence.  In fact it is less so, because my blog is informational and instructional; it is possible sometimes to learn something from it that may help a less experienced animator to improve his skills or to avoid some mistake in approach or execution.

 There may be another avenue open, such as Google Communities, or perhaps I will get reinstated sometime. For now, I am flummoxed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

No. 82, Adventures in Character Design, Part 1: Looking for My Character

What to Do when an Idea Isn't Working

Recently I came to a place in the planning of my new personal film where I felt blocked.  The concept was of two characters having a confrontation in an airport, and as I tried to commit the whole thing to storyboard, my progress and enthusiasm ground to a halt.

The original main characters.

I expressed this to a close friend who is also an animator, and he just shrugged and said, "Well, maybe there is something wrong with the whole idea. Rethink it."

Immediately I felt re-energized. And I also felt relief, because I was keeping with my new resolve not to animate anything without first storyboarding to the end. So I had not wasted a lot of work.

I began sorting through the ruins of my concept like a man standing amid the tornado-riven rubble of his home, looking for what might be salvaged.  There were some good character designs, and there was the airport location. There was a gag about an oversized suitcase that couldn't possibly make it past airport security and size regulations as a carry-on.

Part of the ruin was what had been my main character, a goofy guy who was funny-looking but hard to understand or empathize with, even for me. He was the one with the suitcase, and now I saw that he had to go, and he had to leave the suitcase behind.

Keep the suitcase, lose the guy. These are my first sketches of the character, from a traveling notebook.
 But what could I replace him with?  Was it necessary to start over with that, too?  Or was there possibly something already there?

Next: A New Start