Saturday, July 23, 2011

1st Pass Roughs, Semi-Roughs, & Clean-ups: Hank the Spider Monkey & Batman

Every animator has his/her own way of creating their animation poses.

I normally make three passes at my animation drawings: Rough 1st pass (focusing on the essence of the pose), followed by a semi-clean up on a second sheet (tying down all the elements of the design). Finally, I clean that pose up on a third sheet, making a careful drawing. I cleanup my own drawings as I haven't had a clean-up assistant in the past ten years.

1st Rough Pass
Final Clean-up, Scanned with Blue Line Dropped Out

For fast actions, I rework the rough 1st pass drawing on a second sheet with blue pencil, making adjustments to the tilt of the head, thrust of shoulders, etc. Then, I buff down that semi-clean up and apply my final black line on that drawing.

The following are examples of how much I will adjust the thrust of the different parts of my character's body from 1st pass to that final phase on the second sheet. Note, I'm showing the final version of each pose as scanned in color for this posting. Normally, I would scan the final drawing to Photoshop in grey scale, setting my scanner to drop out the blue lines and just scan the black line. Then, I would adjust the Contrast and Brightness settings of the Photoshop file.
I made adjustments to the head tilt, hat drag, the hands, shoulders, mid-section. In this pose, the head is cocking back as a quick antic into the next pose, which is leading into the lift-off.

Major adjustment was twisting the upper torso, leading into the lift-off.

Twisting the upper torso (shoulders, etc.) to corkscrew up off the ground.

Hank's head and left shoulder are now leading the corkscrew motion up off the ground.
Now for those who prefer a more "realistic" style of character, the following are some of my semi-roughs I did for the series of Batman & Robin commercials about which I've previously posted. I'm planning on posting all the semi-rough drawings I did for this particular scene to give all those interested a chance to practice cleaning up an animator's drawings and finishing all the inbetweens. It is more difficult than it appears, as an assistant needs to be able to think like an animator and not lose the vitality of the drawings. This was the old school path to becoming an animator. Post a comment if this interests you.

This pose is an antic into the following pose #37


  1. I'm in favor of leaving all hand drawn animation 'semi rough' (what we called 'tie downs' at Disney) since the quality of the line is part of its charm.

  2. That's a perfectly valid choice to make (if it's your call).

  3. Totally agree with Anonymous. John, can we see the Batman commercials anywhere online? Beautiful work there. Cheers

  4. Thank you, Mike. There are a number of clear and not-so-clear uploads of these commercials on the internet. I'll be posting the best uploaded versions of all four on this blog.

  5. Mike, it appears that YouTube links to blogs don't hold up. They keep "unlinking". So, I will post the proper addresses for each Batman commercial link so that all those interested can copy and paste them in their browsers.

  6. I can write that clean-up is always the hardest part of animation. I have problems with that on my own drawings.

    I can't state how educational this blog is. Since most studios don't use hand-drawn animation anymore (and the few that do often outsource to other countries), you pretty much have to learn the process yourself, so this is very helpful for me.

  7. Hi John,
    First time poster but your blog is such a valuable tool for me as an animator trying to learn and grasp as much information and technique as we possibly can all day every day to be the best that we can be! I was so excited to read that you are going to post all the drawings for us to clean-up and in-between ourselves. I'm itching and ready to take on the challenge of the old school path! Thank you for everything.

  8. Brubaker & Mike: I'm very glad the information I'm posting on my blog is of value to you. That is my goal: to pass on Old School Ways. Unless this is done, the knowledge will be lost.

    Yes, there are many instructional books out there about animation; and schools of all kinds are teaching the basics, etc. But (correct me if I'm wrong) schools are preparing students to be able to work in today's animation industry that doesn't value Old School Skills. Rather, the focus is on computer programs to manipulate figures, etc. Not on drawing. So, those old skills are not emphasized.

    I don't blame schools for having to do that. That's how they stay in business. However, let's say that in a few years I open up a studio that needs artists with Old School Skills, which not only consist of being able to animate, but also to write stories that are told visually, etc. Where would I find young talent to fill those positions?

    Think of visiting this blog as getting a chance to look over my shoulder as I work. And pass the word around to others who may also be interested in taking a peek. ;-)

  9. I'm a beginner. What the numerical figures and extra lines in the sheets. Are the denote the angle of inclination or something like that

  10. Hello, Vanangamudi.
    These are called spacing charts. They indicate the positioning of the drawings to be drawn in between the key poses that the animator has drawn. An example of their simplest use is shown on Batman key drawing number 37. The spacing chart shows the positioning of drawing number 39 is halfway between drawings number 37 and 41.

    I hope that begins to answer your question.

    The topic of spacing charts can go on for many, many blog postings.

  11. Back in the day, a number of animators would do their blue ruffs on the back side of the paper working flopped. Then they'd turn the paper over and do their clean up. It allowed them to get rid of the ruff drawing for the Xerox machine without using an eraser.

    This, of course, was when many animators worked in a "clean-ruff" style so no Asst. had to be trusted. Just an inbetweener.

  12. A secondary benefit of redrawing a flopped ruff is that the animator can see if the pose is in balance, and make adjustments in the cleanup.

  13. I love that Joanna Quinn says that she always looks at her extremes in the mirror to see if they're properly composed.

  14. How long does it take to finish the clean up? For example that Batman. How long did the clean up artist to finish the inking, painting and shading for every 1 frame?

  15. Anonymous #2: The answer to your question is not a simple one. I will use it as the subject of a future posting. Thanks for the question, as it opens up another area for discussion.

  16. Cool! Can you also show us how long does it take to finish the background painting. Did they also using some photo to quickly finish the bg or they painting it manually? And how many bg artist are needed to finish a project.

  17. Anonymous: Your question regarding how long it takes to finish a background painting, etc has no specific answer. It depends on how difficult or simple the background is. The Batman backgrounds were painted manually -- remember, these commercials were created in 1988.

    The type of questions you have been asking seem to be more along the line of what a producer or production manager would ask. Am I correct?

  18. I am deeply Interested is learning more, thank you for sharing!

  19. I love how you did this, John!
    Being an autistic animation specialist, I usually do traditional 2D animation on paper myself.
    I would love to learn from some of your tips and tricks of old-school animation!