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, June 28, 2016

No. 103, Life Drawing as Animation

Not long ago I read of an animator--could have been Richard Williams--who put a model in life drawing through a sequence of related poses of some action, such as pitching a ball. At each successive pose the animator did a gesture drawing on one page of a pad of translucent paper, starting near the back of the pad and working forward, so that for each new pose he could see through the paper to the previous pose and could relate them one to the others.  At the end he had a series of key drawings of the action, scaled and in register, that could actually be made into an animated scene.

At the drawing sessions which I attend, we often have "long poses", where the model holds a pose for fifteen minutes, takes a short break, and then assumes the same pose again, for as long as one and a half hours. Accustomed as I am to quick drawing, I sometimes become frustrated with these long poses. Instead of working on just one drawing, as most of the other members do, I may do several different versions of the pose. Occasionally, I get up and move to another viewpoint in the room.

Recently I tried something new. Getting to my feet, and with a small pad held across one arm, I did a quick drawing of the model from a viewpoint at the far left of the room. Then I sidestepped a few paces and drew him again from the new viewpoint, superimposing the new drawing over the first and keeping the proportions much the same, as I could see the previous image faintly through the paper.

I continued on, moving to my right after each drawing, sometimes crowding in between the easels of two of my fellow artists, until I was at the far right of the room with seven different angles of the model on my pad.

Seven related drawings of a single pose.

Now I have scanned the drawings and made a little animated movie of them. The result is of course the illusion that the model is rotating on his stand.

This is a wonderful way to learn to understand proportions, to get a grasp of the idea of foreshortening, and to learn the all-important art of visualizing your flat drawings as representations of spatial geometry.  I plan on doing it again soon.  Try it!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

No. 102, The Benefit of Life Drawing

I don't believe there is any animator or storyboard artist or concept artist who could not benefit from life drawing.

Even if you don't get a chance to do much character animation, the experience of life drawing could lead you to a pose that adds in body language some of what might be missing in the animation.

Here are two examples of 3 minute drawings from a recent life drawing class that I attend on a weekly basis.
Each figure was drawn in under three minutes. Practice in quick drawing and observation
is invaluable for the animation artist.
Notice the woman on the right; she is in a strange pose that one might never imagine without reference to real life, with all her weight on that left leg that is angled far to the right, so that her right leg can cross over and come to rest on the opposite side. Because of the flexibility of the ankles, it is actually quite a stable pose. This person, with clothes on, might be standing and waiting for her child's school bus to arrive.

In the pose at left, the woman again has all her weight on her left leg. Animators always need to know how the weight of a character is supported, and it is seldom an equal distribution of weight to each leg.

Here is a 15 minute drawing of a model seated.
A good study in the foreshortening of limbs.

I enjoy poses like this where the long limbs of the legs or arms are coming almost straight at me, or straight away, and I must convincingly depict that illusion of depth.  In this case the model's right upper leg and her left lower leg are severely foreshortened.  The arms, on the other hand, are both in a plane that is perpendicular to my line of sight, so no foreshortening was required there.

Here is a 3 minute drawing that shows what can be defined with a minimum of line and no shading, which is the essence of drawing for traditional animation.

Line drawing--the heart and soul of traditional hand-drawn animation.

Line art as the primary means of expression for traditional animation came about through a combination of influences:  because of the process of tracing through a stack of paper sheets held in register; because the early animation producers were working with a high-contrast black and white film that could not record subtle shades of grey; because hand-shaded drawings were jittery and took too much time to render; because of the strong influence of the styles and media of newspaper comic strips; and, with the advent of the use of cels, because the smoothest way to shade was to fill the areas defined by the lines in flat greys or colors on the backs of the cels. Animators learned to delineate volume with carefully crafted outline, until that became an art.

Now in the present digital age it has become possible to render animation directly as volumes rather than as outlines representing volumes. But for me and many others, animation through line art remains the more alluring medium.

Beyond outline, to attempt to draw the subtle contours within a form is excellent exercise in observation and eye-hand control.

A 15 minute drawing of a male model with
well-defined musculature.

If you cannot attend life-drawing sessions with nude models, you can still benefit from life drawing of family and friends. You will find that it is very different from drawing from photographs. If you are not already doing this, I strongly encourage you to draw from life, analyzing shape and weight and balance from the viewpoint of an animator. You may discover your animation skills to be greatly enhanced!

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Next: Life Drawing as Animation

Sunday, June 19, 2016

No. 101, Animated Cartoons for the Beginner, Part 2

As promised, I have now converted the other two flipbooks from the margins of Volney White's Animated Cartoons for the Beginner into watchable movies.

Like the walk cycle shown in post No. 100, these two short sequences have no registration crosses or other aids in re-aligning the badly registered drawings, so I have just made educated guesses as to the proper relative positions.

Run Cycle

Aligning the run cycle was aided by continuity of feet in contact with the ground, and I think I am quite close to the mark.

This cycle may have been intended to run on 1s (one frame per drawing, at 24 fps) but I found it very hard to watch at that speed, so I am showing it here on 2s (2 frames per drawing).

Character Turning His Head

Working with the second scene, a character turning his head and winking, I became aware that the inbetweening of the hands/arms was very poor; precise inbetweening would have been a great help in getting these drawings into proper alignment, but it just wasn't there. Sloppy and careless work.  Still, I think I am fairly close to the original.

But that original leaves a lot to be desired, as it violates a rule that I learned only gradually over the years: if you want your animation to read, only do one thing at a time. Here, Volney White has wasted a wink of his character's eye by just tacking it onto the end of the head movement; the wink is noticeable only if you are looking for it.

These two little animated movements do nothing toward redeeming them from my verdict for Animated Cartoons for the Beginner as Worst Ever Animation Instruction Book.

Next: The Pleasures and Benefits of Life Drawing