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, November 21, 2016

No. 114, The Character on the Cutting Room Floor

A frame of sequence 7 in Storyboard Pro.
Having now created animatics of four of the sequences for my film Carry On, I am getting some idea of the length of the entire production. Right now, the screen time is something like 6.5 minutes.

For an independent production coming out of a one-man shop, this is an alarming amount of footage. It is not impossible, but with two more sequences still to be storyboarded, it could become overwhelming.  So I am naturally looking for ways to trim unnecessary shots and otherwise tighten up the production.

Every scene is being scrutinized.  What does it add to the telling of the story? What would be the effect of leaving it out? If important, could it be cleverly combined with something else so that the result would be shorter?

Sequence 7 is a case in point. At one minute and twenty-two seconds, it is actually paced rather nicely. But as I began work on the next sequence, number 8, I began to see a problem with them both. The two airline employee characters from 7 appear again in 8, and the interaction between them becomes complicated and time-consuming.  At last I saw that if I rewrote their whole interaction, I could reduce their screen time considerably, while still putting across the same necessary points about their relationship that are essential to the plot. And somehow it seemed now to work better that the senior airline agent should be a man rather than a woman.

It looks as if sequence 7 will now end at about the same length as before, but sequence 8 will be shorter than it would have been, so that the story will become more concise as desired. In addition, the exposition is more clear, and the production benefits all around.

As for the character of the woman airline agent, she is out.  She is, as film makers used to say, on the cutting room floor, like a length of 35mm footage containing her entire screen time, discarded by a film editor.  But of course in animation, editing is virtually always done now, in storyboarding, and not after the film is shot.

Here is what she looks like, together with an image of her replacement:

A promising character design, I will keep her under contract until the right role comes along.
The new guy.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

No. 113, Take Two

After my post about extra drawings in the storyboard (No. 111, When the Storyboard Artist Is Also the Animator) I found myself continuing to work in real time with those drawings, and I decided I wasn't entirely happy with them.  Sometimes you have to tell yourself to let something go so you can get on to the end, but in storyboarding, if it isn't right, it must be fixed. If a pose or a gesture or a camera angle isn't right, you may not be telling the story in the clearest way; you may not be connecting with the viewer.  To ignore the opportunity to improve things in storyboarding is foolish, because this is the last stage when changes can me made cheaply; as experienced animation film makers know, changes in the animation stage or after can be disastrously expensive.

During storyboarding, you actually have the luxury of what a live action director would just call a second or third take.  You can say to your character, in effect, "Let me see you do that again, and this time get it more this way or that way." You thus direct the character: you draw it over and see if you can make it better.

Of course, this extends my metaphor that the independent animator is the director, and the animator, and the storyboard artist, and the inbetweener, and just about every other role in production.  In this case, you are the director talking to the actor (you again) about the character (you yet again.)

The example I will show you here is at the climax of a whole sequence, when the Old Man reveals the overcoat that he has pulled out of his trunk. Here is the first "take" of that shot, in two storyboard panels.

Having failed to tug the garment out with just one hand, the Old Man gets a good
two-handed grip (image 1) and pulls hard (image 2).
I found these poses to be wimpy and not sufficiently dramatic. So I spoke quietly with the Old Man (in my head) and then I had him do a second "take."

Now as he gets his grip, the Old Man is a more interesting silhouette, and he is
coiled like a spring (image 1). This time when he pulls hard (image 2), his torso twists,
the violent motion throws him out of balance, and he will clearly have to take
a step or two backward if he is not to fall down.
Importantly for the animation, there is now more change between the first and second poses.

I want to note that it is interesting to work with a character like this who has some physical limitations and therefore cannot perform all the vigorous variety of moves of a younger character who is in good shape; his back must always be bent, and any violent movement may cause him to lose his balance or even hurt himself. Mostly, though still strong, he must move slowly and with caution.

I have gotten very fond of this old gentleman, and I look forward to doing him justice when I get into the animation.