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

Friday, November 30, 2018

No. 174, Designing on the Fly

In feature animation production, the storyboard artists are not required to stay too much on model with the characters. As long as one can tell what character it is, and if expressions and body language are conveyed, a character may be drawn roughly and loosely.  For them, the important things are staging and camera viewpoint and clarity of action.

The independent animation film maker who is doing everything himself will sometimes design a character during the storyboarding process. In such a case, it is equally okay to be a bit careless about details and accuracy, because the character design is still fluid.

By the time real animation begins, however, it is well to have a model sheet made up.  I have a good example of that here.

I have a number of short scenes featuring these two characters, and I intend to animate all the scenes  as a group. This is a good way to minimize a tendency to keep on designing as the work goes along; if I were to do one scene in the group now and another six months later, there would be a likelihood that I might have trouble getting the character to look the same.

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows a collage of storyboard images of the two characters I am calling Ben and Bev.  They are male and female security personnel at the airport, in charge of moving people through the luggage X-ray process.  Here, Ben's images are more consistent than those of Bev, whose hair style keeps changing through the sequence's storyboard.

Figure 2

In Figure 2, I have retraced all the images from Figure 1, plus many more from a second sheet, working to make consistent all the details and proportions as I drew. The result is a model sheet that will definitely help me to keep these characters in line for all of their scenes.

Friday, November 23, 2018

No. 173, Making It Bigger

Working Too Small

We all know by now that CGI character animation has the ability to be far more subtle in movement than hand-drawn work could ever be. The limit of hand-drawn subtlety is easily defined: it is basically down to the width of a pencil line. That's why in our hand-drawn medium, we look for other ways to distinguish our craft than by competing with CGI in this area where they are clearly the champs.

That said, we still need to express some subtlety and slow movement in our work, sometimes getting down to that pencil-line thickness between drawings in order to put across our ideas in animation.

Why, then, would anyone work at a smaller scale than they have to?  The bigger your image, the more subtle you can be.  A character drawn 9 inches high can be much more subtle than a character drawn only 4 1/2 inches high, because the width of that pencil line stays the same. Right?

Yet scaling my characters smaller on the page than they have to be is a mistake I have repeatedly committed in my own work. I just caught myself doing it again, struggling with miniature hands and fingers and other details until I realized my mistake.

Animators who do their hand-drawn work paperless, drawing digitally with a stylus directly into the computer, do not really have this problem because they can zoom their view in and out at will. It is to those of us who still animate on paper that I am talking to here.

In the days of filmed animation, the animator was usually forced to work at the scale dictated by the action within the layout. A character might have to run off into the distance until it was quite small on the paper, losing detail and integrity, going off-model along the way. There were examples at Disney where tiny onscreen characters had been animated large, then reduced to the correct relative size with photostats before inking, but that was expensive to do and rare.

But if, like me, you do a hybrid sort of animation, working first on paper and then scanning the drawings into ToonBoom, TV Paint, or other such software, you can take advantage of the software's scaling capability in reverse.  For example, if you have a situation where your field to photograph is 11 inches wide, and your character in that scene is two inches high, you can animate that character on paper at 6 or 8 inches high and then, after scanning, bring that layer down to the correct scale relative to the background.

One limitation to this is a character who must be animated showing her whole height; in that case you would not want to scale it up so much that it would crop off any of the limbs.

The point is to always think about this when approaching a scene.  Could you be drawing larger? If you could, then probably you should.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

No. 172, Indiegogo Campaign for "Hand Drawn" Feature Film

"Hand Drawn"

As an enthusiastic supporter of anything promoting 2D animation in this CGI age, I am happy to make known to you an Indiegogo project called Hand Drawn.  This will be a feature-length film of commentary and interviews with many well-known and lesser-known animators from across North America and perhaps also Europe and Asia.

Indiegogo is a crowdfunding website where you pledge what you can, from one dollar to several hundred, with perks increasing according to how much you put in.  I just learned of the campaign today (15 November, 2018), only eleven days before the deadline.  So if you want to help, go now to this direct link.

You can also go to the project homepage, here, to see all the details.

If you love 2D animation as I do, and you want to preserve and promote it, this is an opportunity to contribute to that cause. They are asking only $15,000 dollars, and as of now they are a little more than halfway there, so your effort, even if it is but a few dollars, can really make a difference.

Don't  wait!