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, August 30, 2019

No. 194: Richard Williams, 1933-2019

Richard Williams Passes

It was with shock that I read of the death of Richard Williams last week, just after I had posted about him (No. 193: Page One-eleven). He was 86 years old, but that doesn't lessen the regret I felt for his absence from the 2D animation world; he loomed larger than anyone in his reverence and enthusiasm for drawn animation, and for all that he did to try to sustain it and make it into a noble art.

We have his great book, The Animator's Survival Kit, and we have the instructional DVD collection that he created afterwards, and we have all his films and drawings to treasure and learn from, and though I am given to understand that he could be difficult to work with, he made a great positive impact on animators around the world. His work will continue to inspire and stimulate for decades to come, I am sure.

Richard Williams as he looked in his early forties.
What we don't have is the completed feature film that he had dedicated so much of his life to, the ill-fated The Thief and the Cobbler, which was taken out of his hands and then "completed" by a crew that had no sense of what the project could be. Yet still, the incomplete version (The Thief Recobbled) that we do have is a marvel to see.

As I have said, I was privileged to attend the first of his Master Classes, and I got to experience his charisma and his dedication first hand. A great raconteur, he entertained us with hilarious imitations of such animation personalities as Milt Kahl and Grim Natwick while at the same time impressing us with the lore he had learned at the feet of those two and as many other of the aging golden age animators as he could muster. Before they passed away, he hired and learned all he could from Ken Harris, Art Babbitt and Abe Levitow, and then he scribed it all down for us in his clear and detailed way, for he was not only a great designer and artist and animator, he was a great teacher as well.
A couple of pages from my personal notebook made during the
Animation Master Class in 1995.

Richard Williams has died, but his legacy remains for now and for the future.

Friday, August 16, 2019

No. 193: Page One-Eleven

My Page in Richard Williams' Book...Maybe

I have referred fondly to Richard Williams' book The Animator's Survival Kit, published in 2001, and I even believe I may take credit for a small bit of it.

Years ago, a friend and I attended the first ever of Richard Williams' Animation Master Class workshops. This was held in Vancouver, BC, November 9, 10 and 11 of 1995. These classes were the basis for the book, or helped work out the ideas to be included in the book;  I am not sure which.  But he was already calling his class "the Animator's Survival Kit" at this time.

It was perhaps on the second day, when we had been talking about animating walks.  There was a bathroom break, and I walked up to Dick and said, "If you are animating a walk cycle, should you animate the character in one place on the page, as for use with a scrolling background?  Or should you walk him across the page?"

Most of what I knew about animation I had learned from books, and from studying animated films directly, so for years I had done walk cycles with the character holding his place on the page and his feet slipping backward, as if I were standing alongside a treadmill where the character was walking.

How walks are often displayed in books on animation.
From "Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons", by Robert B. Heath.
Another example, this time by Preston Blair in his well-known book.
From "Animation", by Preston Blair, published by Walter T. Foster.

This is how they were usually portrayed in animation books, often with registration marks over each image, so that they could all be lined up, one perfectly superimposed over the next. In some ways this was easier to do, with the body and head just bobbing up and down.  In fact, for a long time I don't believe it occurred to me to do it otherwise. But recently I had realized that perhaps you could get a better feel for the forward movement by letting the character actually step forward across the page, and so I had posed this question to Richard Williams.

There was a pause of several seconds before he answered decisively, "Walk him across the page."

That's all I can tell you about his thought process, or whether or not he had already intended to say something about this. But I can tell you that when the book was published, there it was, on page 111: " doing these walks--take a few steps across the page or screen--don't try to work out a cycle walking in place with the feet sliding back, etc." 

Here is a copy of the actual entry:

From page 111 of "The Animator's Survival Kit", by Richard Williams,
published by Faber and Faber, 2001.

But more important than whether I was an influence on Richard Williams is the fact that he is right: walking the character across the page is the best way to get the movement right. The other might sometimes work, but it can also look as phony as running in place does compared to actually running over a distance, and getting the feel of the mass and weight moving forward will help you achieve a convincing walk (or run, or sneak or other gait.)

The walk cycle, drawn spread out across the page.

And here's something of my own I want to add: it is important in doing any walk cycle in this way to create a copy of drawing 1 at the end, so that you have a drawing to link into.  Thus if you have a 16 drawing walk cycle, create also a drawing 17 which is a tracing of drawing 1 except that it will be positioned at the end of the second step, where the cycle repeats. This will be a working drawing and never to be photographed, but I think you will find it indispensable.

With a copy of drawing 1 in the new position, you will have
something to animate into.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

No. 192: The Walk Cycle Completed

The story so far...

Last time I showed you the first version pencil test where I had mainly focused on the legs and feet. Here is the promised version two, featuring the final hand and arm action.

Yet this was still only half the work, as the remaining 8 inbetweens had yet to be done.  And are these straight inbetweens, with every line or point on the inbetween  halfway between the two corresponding lines or points on the drawings it connects? The answer is, certainly not.  At the extremes, there are ease-in or ease-out spacings, and also certain of these "simpler" inbetween drawings may even have a useful eccentricity to them.

Here is a good example of that.

Example in which an inbetween [in red] is not a straight
inbetween but an eccentric one.

Watch for that little one-drawing, two-frame accent here in the final pencil test. Once for each step, of course.

Other things have been done here: Necktie animation, tightening of the drawing on all drawings, and also I raised the high point of the Up drawings before the inbetweening.

This is a reliable and methodical way to create a cycle, or any scene, by adding the various elements just one or two at a time, and not trying to get it all right on the first pass.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

No. 191: The Old Man Walks

A New Walk Cycle

Every once in a while, I get down Richard Williams' book from my collection of something like 150 books on animation, and I go through it from beginning to end. This does not count the times I get it down to look up something specific, as for example recently when I wanted to review what he had to say about someone clapping their hands.

The Animator's Survival Kit by Williams and Illusion of Life by Thomas and Johnston are the two  most influential and informational guides to the process of traditional animation that I can imagine. Of the two, Survival Kit is actually the more useful.  For one thing, it is organized better; if you have ever tried to look something up in Illusion of Life, you will have little idea where in the book to look for that something.  You just have to turn pages until you find it. This is because, to a great extent, Illusion of Life is organized chronologically, more as a history than as a text book.
I like it so well, I have two copies of this book.

Survival Kit is actually everything that Richard Williams could think of about animation that could be written down.  It is a how-to book and a how-to-proceed book, and it also tells you why.  It is not a bible but more a book of lore, techniques that amount to a sorcerer's compendium of magic  gathered from years working with Disney animators and Warners animators and others, and setting out the spells and rites (and hard work) that can bring forth good and interesting animation that is alive. When I get it down for a thorough review, it is to look for things I had missed or glossed over before, and there is always something new for me.


On the subject of characters' walks, Williams does seventy-three pages, and that doesn't include runs and jumps and other such variations. So it may be no wonder that one tends to turn pages through this section, stopping to read just here and there. This time I gave it a closer scrutiny, because I was about to do a new walk cycle for my Old Man character (for my film Carry On) and I wanted to work more with the multi-pass approach to any complex animation, wherein you focus on one thing at a time, as for example, first the legs, then the arms, then the head, etc. By this method you can successfully carry out something that in the aggregate is more nuanced and rich than you could accomplish if you tried to think about everything at once.

This turns out to be a difficult thing to learn. I am always tempted to try to get everything down, and everything right, on the first pass. But my results that way are not always good, so I wanted to commit myself to the multi-pass system that is recommended not only by Williams but was practiced by Milt Kahl and others.

The Old Man

The brief, or requirements, for this animation were obvious to me.  The man is old, and he has a deformed spine, but he is not weak--he will be dragging that huge steamer trunk around, remember.
So his walk may be slow and deliberate, but not feeble or faltering. And, I don't want the walk to be too comic.

The obvious starting point is with the legs and feet. I did of course put in the torso, head and arms, but just as placeholders.  I am not thinking much about them yet: they are subject to change.

Each step will be sixteen frames, or 2/3 of a second at 24fps, rather than the 12 or 8 frames that we are used to seeing. I will animate on 2's rather than 1's, so each drawing gets two exposures. For the complete cycle of two steps, there will be sixteen drawings.

First Pass

I made eight drawings to begin with: for each step, a Contact position (1 and 9), a Down position (3 and 11), a Passing Position (5 and 13), and an Up position (7 and 15).  Here is that pencil test.

Well, it's working. He has an almost shuffling step, making contact on the ball of his foot rather than the heel, and I think the amount of up and down movement on the body is good too.

Before I add in the eight inbetweens, I will now make a second pass for the arms and hands, and I have an idea about this I want to try. We'll look at that next time.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

No. 190: Square to 16:9

Getting the Whole Picture

When I began my film, Carry On, I had to decide on an aspect ratio; that is, the proportion of height to width of the film frame. I chose to use the 16:9 ratio, a very wide ratio similiar to those popularized in movie theaters in such formats as Cinemascope, Vista Vision and Cinerama, which they say were conceived to give the moviegoer an experience that could not be had on the medium that had become a threat to theatrical movies:  television.

Well, as we all know, television has found a way around that limitation. But in social media there are still examples of a fixed and restricted aspect ratio, mainly because of their use on cell phones.  Specifically, I refer to Instagram, which crops everything to a perfect square. So, try to post a wide or tall image on Instagram, and it will simply be cropped down to a square.

This shows what goes missing when a 16:9 image, shown in blue,
is cropped down to a square shape.
I recently posted to my Instagram account a pencil test in 16:9 and was annoyed to find that, because of the cropping, it didn't make any sense to the viewer.

Here, in square format, the cropping cut off some important action at screen right.

Looking for a workaround, I did a little searching online and discovered a service called Kapwing. For no charge, I could upload my movie and get it modified so that the whole frame was in view, somewhat smaller, of course, but perfectly clear.

Now we can see the rear of the taxi, where something happens near the end of the clip. merely requires the inclusion of their small watermark in the lower right corner of each movie. You can visit them for more information.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

No. 189:A Finished Scene

That Heavy Trunk

Here is the final version of my first scene to be finished in color for my film Carry On.

My next scene, Scene 1-3, precedes this one in continuity; it will show the taxi with Old Man and trunk arriving at the airport.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

No. 188: Taxi Arriving

Although character animation is for me the most satisfying part of 2D animation, it is sometimes necessary to do other animation along the way. This is animation of objects, like the Old Man's trunk, that are tedious to draw and yet give conviction and substance to the scenes.

I did a recent post talking about the difficulty of imitating 3D animation in 2D (No. 182), but it is not so bad if you are not trying so much to imitate 3D as to simply make a convincing 2D interpretation of the movement of 3D objects.

In the scene we are looking at here, there is a wide exterior shot of an airport terminal departures building.  A taxi appears at screen right, following a curving driveway, and stops to unload a passenger and his luggage.

I considered making the road and curbing straight across, so that the taxi could be a single image sliding across from right to left.  But, as usual, I decided on doing it the hard way.

This is the layout for the scene.

This shows the beginning (at right) and ending (at center) positions of the taxi that drives in. As you can see, the vehicle turns in perspective as it drives in. It also diminishes in scale.

It would be possible to animate the taxi moving across the page from pos. 1 to pos. 2, but there is a helpful shortcut I can use.

If I superimpose positions 1 and 2, then the inbetweening will be easier and more accurate. Tracing from my pos. 1 drawing, I made a more complete rendering that is registered directly above pos. 2; the inbetweening is now an obvious process.

The consideration of arcs while inbetweening is in this case moot; the arcs will be introduced in the final placement of the drawings along the path of movement.

Lasting 18 frames, this will require 9 drawings (shooting on 2's).  There will also be some squash and stretch as the taxi stops, but that is a problem that can be addressed separately.

Here is a view of five of the drawings being rolled on my animation board.

When this is done, I will then reposition the drawings along the path. In past years, I would have done this with scissors and tape, cutting out each drawing and re-mounting it onto a new sheet of--wait for it!--Acme punched paper.

But giving in (just a little) to today's digital convenience, I can just make a spacing guide and then shift the scanned drawings in Animate Pro.

Spacing guide for the 9 moving taxi images.

Next: That inking and painting again!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

No. 187: Inking in Animate Pro

From Paper to Digital

After a month of vacation travel, I am back home and at work inking the first scene of my film Carry On. The traditionally paper-animated drawings were scanned and imported as vector images into Animate Pro, and now I am inking them onto a new layer where I will also apply color and the background.

It seems that many animators now have gone to TV Paint in preference to Toon Boom or other software, but Toon Boom Animate Pro is what I have, and I am happy with it. Onward!

Friday, April 26, 2019

No. 186: That Steamer Trunk Gag

Size and Weight

Here is a drawing you will feel but not see: a single frame of
the trunk on impact, showing its squashed form.

Back in posts no. 142 and 144, I discussed this scene in detail.  It shows how even a large, strong man has trouble lifting and moving the Old Man's ponderous trunk. It is key to the whole film because you will keep wondering how that old man is going to move the trunk at all, let alone get it onto the airplane.

We come back to it now because I have chosen it as the first scene I intend to finish in ink and paint and with a background.

Let's look at the scene again, in a new pencil test done with my stop motion app.

The drawings have now been tightened up so that there is detail in the renderings of the trunk and in a few details on the man lifting it (i.e., some drag and follow through on his pants leg.)

Next will be scanning the drawings as bitmaps, then importing them into Animate Pro as vector drawings, and then re-drawing them on a new layer. (Laborious, yes, but tell me something about animation that I don't know?) I will be establishing my inking style at this point and also adding color.  Stay tuned!

Friday, April 12, 2019

No. 185: Animation at Any Speed

How Many Frames per Second?

Early on, I learned that it was not a good idea to think of timing in terms of frames. That is, how many frames it took to do something: throw a ball, take a step, do a take. A couple of decades before, there wouldn't have been any reason not to, because everything was projected at 24 or 25 frames per second (fps.)

A couple of decades before that, before 1928, the standard projection speed was 16 fps; it was the advent of sound that standardized the speed at 24. And film animators often learned to think of their timing in terms of feet, because one linear foot of 35mm film contained 16 frames. I think it must have been film editors who physically spliced together actual lengths of film stock who thought of that.

Shortly after I got into animation, though, computers set a new standard of 30 fps, so if you worked in computer games, you worked with that. It was based on 60 cycle alternating current, programmers have told me. It can boggle the mind, doing one project at 24fps and the next at 30.

So I learned to think of my timing in terms of seconds and fractions of seconds, a system which works at any speed. I have done work at 30, 24, 12 and 8 fps.

Eight frames per second is a funny frame rate. It is slow enough that the eye is not quite fooled by the motion. One can perceive the jumps from image to image. Japanese anime is full of it, though, and most people don't seem to mind (though I do!)

My experience at using 8 fps was on a children's 2D video game at Humongous Entertainment.  As it happened, that particular project never got finished, but I did some pencil tests, and I found that it was possible to get a passable result.

And there was one other project, just a few years ago, a picture book which also was never published.  As i recall, I was asked to do a simple cycle of animation of a cartoon hippopotamus rising out of the water and sinking back again. Because of the technology being used on the book, there was a severe limitation of 7 or 8 frames for the action. I was dubious, but I tried it, and I found that at 8 fps it didn't look half bad.  Here is the pencil test of that, repeated a few times.

Rather fun and funny, I think, and I am sorry it never got printed and seen. I hope you enjoy it now.

Here's a color illustration I later did, just because I enjoyed drawing the character.

Friday, March 29, 2019

No. 184: Getting into Color

A lot of color choices to be made here!

Not My Favorite Thing, but...

You know what my favorite thing is: animation. But of course if you are making films, and are doing it mostly alone, you don't just get scenes handed to you; you have to do it all.

And that is a good thing. Then you're not just an animator; you're a film maker. (Although "Just an animator" doesn't sound right to me.) And as much as I like to animate, there is joy and satisfaction in doing the other things, too: the layouts, the script, the storyboards, the backgrounds, the color styling--all of it.

So, color styling, that's where I am right now.  I find myself continually thinking about what the film will look like on the screen. Should the palette be a limited palette, as for example if everything were in shades of blue and brown, and nothing else? That's a very big and important decision to make.  Here is a small one: should the Old Man have a brown suit, or a green one? But I do think about it.

These are a few of my color experiments that have happened this week.
The woman security guard.
The Old Man and his trunk, confronted by the male guard.

Two of the supporting characters.


Monday, March 18, 2019

No. 183: Man Takes Picture with Tablet

Sometimes the simplest things can be the hardest. Overt action in animation happens to be easier than being restrained or subtle. I had to do a second try at this little scene before I got it right.

This young man, fascinated by the doings of my Old Man character in line in front of him in the airport luggage inspection line, has gotten down on one knee to take a picture with his tablet. We see him raise the tablet into position for the shot.

At first I had him look down and pull the tablet slightly toward his chest before going into the full extension extreme at the end.  But this turned out to be too much movement for this anticipation. I ended up keeping his head steady and moved only his pelvis back a little as he prepares to lunge forward.

One has to keep in mind the importance of the shot.  It makes the point that people are watching the Old Man with varying degrees of interest, but it doesn't take center stage really.  (In the shot, other passengers will be shown around him.) I now feel that I got the right movement in this shot.

See what you think:

Friday, March 15, 2019

No. 182: 21 Extremes + 1,599 Inbetweens = Amazing Perijove Movie

Automatic Inbetweening

One frame from the APOD video of February 5, 2019.

I don't know if I have ever discussed this topic here before, but when computer animation first became possible, the hope among some people was that animation would be a lot cheaper, a lot easier to do, if all you had to do was create the extremes and let the computer do the inbetweening for you.
Faster and cheaper, right? With perfect  rendering, right?

Well, it turned out to be not such a good idea after all in character animation, for reasons that are obvious to animators. The movement of organic objects such as human and animal characters is way more complex than just moving from one extreme to the next. Such a transition will rightly include anticipation, drag, follow through, squash and stretch--almost the entire list of the so-called 12 principles of animation--plus deliberate distortions that are more related to esthetics and showmanship than to physics.

Thus, today's CGI character animator has to have many controllers at her command in order to get the nuances necessary to make believable and entertaining character movement.

The Exception: Rigid Objects

But for the rigid object--a spaceship, a chair, a house viewed from a changing perspective--automatic inbetweening is desirable. In the 1980s and early 90s, when computer animation was not so universally available, I was sometimes asked to animate by hand a rotating signboard, for example, and "make it look like computer animation." It was possible, but it wasn't easy, and I yearned for a simpler way to do it--a way that has now become commonplace.


Having a fascination with astronomy, occasionally I look through the images on a great science website called Astronomy Picture of the Day, or APOD. which is supported by NASA. Daily subjects include enhanced photos of galaxies and nebulae, eclipses, planetary conjunctions, aurorae, comets, meteor showers, photos taken from space stations, and other astronomical images.

Recently they published a fly-by video of the planet Jupiter taken from the NASA spacecraft Juno. With just 21 images, they were able to extrapolate almost 1,600 inbetweens to create a breathtaking close approach to our largest planet.

Take a look here and enjoy!
The Juno satellite approaches Jupiter.

Approximately at perijove, or closest approach to Jupiter.

A frame taken as the satellite now moves on past our
solar system's largest planet.

Monday, February 25, 2019

No. 181, Film Review: Saludos Amigos

Looking through Andreas Dejas' The Nine Old Men, I found myself marveling once again over Wooly Reitherman's gaucho Goofy sequence.  A selection of drawings from this piece was also included in The Illusion of Life by Thomas and Johnston, and I have often gazed admiringly upon these wonderful, hyperactive constructions at which Reitherman was so good.

© Disney Corporation

This was a segment in the 1942 release Saludos Amigos, the result of a good will tour of Central  and South America by Disney and a select team of artists. (I believe there was also some motivation to try to cultivate new foreign distribution markets after the loss to fascist powers of much of the continental European markets.) I thought I would see if Saludos  was available on YouTube, and I succeeded; in fact, I found a real animator's special. Some wouldn't like it because it is 1) recorded in Spanish with 2)  tinny sound quality and 3) takes up only a third of the YouTube screen and 4)  is cropped from its original aspect ratio. Put it up at full screen, though, and the image is clean and clear. If you are just studying the animation, you probably won't care much about the vocal sound track anyway. The URL for this is here.

The four animated sequences are each prefaced with some grainy, blown-up 16mm live-action footage of the South American countries being visited, sometimes showing Walt Disney and some of his staff observing or interacting in front of the camera. Like so much of the newsreel footage shot in the 40s and 50s, any sound you hear has been added in post production, including singing and sound effects. Also, just about everything has been speeded up, probably just for the simple reason that it was shot at 16 frames per second and run in theaters at 24.

But the film includes not only the Wooly Reitherman animation of Goofy, but also an amazing sequence featuring Donald Duck and a cartoon llama that were animated principally by Milt Kahl.

© Disney Corporation

There is also a pleasant and cute story about a mail plane named Pedro, an early example of Disney's anthropomorphic vehicles that include Susie the Little Blue Coupe and the Cars movies.

© Disney Corporation

Least interesting of the four cartoon segments is the one called Aquarela do Brasil. This introduces the parrot character Jose Carioca to Donald Duck, and it is competent animation that only suffers by comparison with the livelier and more dynamic animation of Donald and Jose, along with a third character called Panchito, in the later release The Three Caballeros, with design and animation by the great Ward Kimball.

© Disney Corporation

The film is there to study or just enjoy. Remember that the YouTube settings menu features a choice of speeds, including .25 (25 percent), which is a rate of 6 to 7 frames per second and allows you to appreciate all the individual drawings.

I recommend that you spend some time with Saludos Amigos and enjoy some of the best comic animation that ever came out of the Disney studios.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

No. 180, A Little Applause for Myself

A Woman Clapping Her Hands

As I have stated before, a good animation cycle is hard to get right.  Why? Because, since it repeats and repeats and repeats, if there is anything at all wrong about it, that will be noticed.  And it won't only be noticed by your fellow animators; it will be noticed by EVERYBODY.

"Everybody" won't be able to say why it is wrong, of course, but they will see it and be distracted and unconvinced by it, and when that happens it takes something away from the illusion you have built. You can't let that happen.

I have another scene here with the two TSA-type security guards, a man and a woman, whom you may remember from posts 174, 175 and 176.  This is a final shot for them. The situation is that when the Old Man succeeds in getting his trunk up onto the table with the X-ray conveyor, many people who have been watching break out into spontaneous applause.

In the scene here, we cut to see that one of the most enthusiastic in her clapping is the woman guard who had been so suspicious of the Old Man earlier.  Smiling, she looks over at her partner while continuing to clap.

Here is the storyboard panel for Scene 5-56.

Originally requiring only a single panel, I have now added
the woman turning her head toward her partner.
But I have had a surprisingly hard time getting the clapping cycle right. For once, Dick Williams advice was not a help.  He discusses clapping hands on pages 242 and 243 of his book (The Animator's Survival Kit), but it is a hammer-and-anvil sort of clapping, where one hand holds more-or-less still while the other hand does most of the movement. 

What I have here is a light sort of applause clapping, like in the gallery of a golf championship, with both hands moving about equally. Also it should be noted that the clapping is a kind of secondary action, with the primary action being the woman's head as she turns to grin at the man, so the clapping must not distract from that.

Anyway, after three tries and even resorting to making reference footage of myself clapping--something I try to avoid doing--I finally got a good result.

First, here are all the character layers together.

Composite of 3 layers: 1) the man plus the woman's body,
2) the woman's head, and 3) clapping hands and arms.
Now the clapping cycle, which continues throughout the scene until fadeout.

Monday, February 4, 2019

No. 179, Stop Motion as Pencil Test Software

Poor Pencil Test Images

For a long time I have been unhappy about the quality of my pencil test videos. Instead of being in easy-to-view black on white they have been a disappointing grey on grey.

This is the kind of greyed-out image I have been getting in my pencil tests.

I have determined that this is not the fault of my software, the now "legacy" Toki Line Test, but of the cameras I have been using. For the camera to connect to my Mac, it has to have a USB plug, and the two cameras I have been using have no adjustment controls; the only way I have been able to work with the contrast, brightness and other settings is through the Toki Line Test control sliders, which have been inadequate.

I have tried directly hooking up my Iphone cam but the software (and the Mac) do not recognize the phone cam as a camera source.

In my last posting to this blog, No. 178, I talked about downloading the app Stop Motion for making stop-motion animation. I wondered: could this work for my pencil tests as well? I was encouraged to note that any movies made in Stop Motion could be imported directly to You Tube or to Instagram.

I then purchased my own tripod (an inexpensive one designed for making selfies) and found that I could remove from it the phone clamp, which sported a universal camera screw mount that is used for mounting most cameras onto any tripod or other stabilizing support. Since my vertical camera stand uses that same mounting system, it was easy to now mount my Iphone in place.
The Iphone as pencil test camera.

Shooting a frame.

Now the image is sharp and in high contrast--success! The frames per second are variable, and also are the number of frames per click. There is an incremental zoom feature, too.

The only thing I don't know how to do is to show multiple layers.  That might be done by shooting the tests over a backlighted board, like the animation drawing disk itself.  But for simple tests of timing, this seems to be a very good solution.

Here is a sample test with this system. There is a little glitch at the end where the camera got bumped, but you can readily see the improvement in quality.

In time I may go back and re-shoot some of the pencil tests already posted.  At any rate my future output will be much easier to watch.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

No. 178, A Little Stop Motion Fun

Stop Motion Inspiration

Just a week ago, while visiting our nephew and niece, I entertained their almost seven-year-old daughter by drawing and inking a picture of her favorite doll.  She did a lovely job of coloring it, as you can see here.

This young lady is home-schooled, and I got to telling her parents how I had once taught a stop-motion animation class to a group of home-schooled children near where I live.

Stop-motion? What's that? they wanted to know. Most lay people do not have the words to describe the different genres of animation--hand drawn, stop motion, clay animation (a form of stop motion, of course), paint-on-film, CGI--even if they do discern that there are differences.  I explained that I had got the kids in my class to bring in toy cars and other toys that they wanted to see animated, and I shot the tabletop with my Macbook Pro using my pencil test software. I just operated the shutter; the students did all the animation. We had a lot of spectacular car crashes on that tabletop.

I hadn't ever looked for stop-motion apps to get, but I did so that day, and I found that there were several. We chose to download one called, simply, Stop Motion, or Stop Motion Studio if you got all the features. By the next morning my nephew had gone out and purchased a little tripod with a phone mount on it to hold the camera steady.  I did one little demo for my great niece, using her dollhouse for a set, and voila! She was hooked.

I hear she is busy making stop-motion films herself now, with perhaps a little help from her mom and dad. It was inspiring to me to see her enthusiasm for bringing her toys to life in motion--for being an animator!

 I also had another inspiration that pertained to my own work.  But that is the topic of my next post.