Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Joker Running Away In Perspective

Animating a figure moving away from camera into the distance is not as easy as it looks.

Here are the drawings, rough background, and x-sheet for the Joker running away in perspective. The final color version in the commercial was tilted counterclockwise approximately 15 to 20%. It was also a little shorter at the end, cutting just before the Joker lands after he clicks his heels. (see the Joker commercial clip in my post from Saturday, July 30, 2011 "Batman Zellers Commercial Series")

Study the x-sheet. You'll note that the original timing had the Joker taking 8 frame running steps. However, that was too slow and the Joker could not possibly cover much distance at that jogging speed for the time allotted in the scene. So, I animated him running at twice that speed (4 frame steps).

Note that I originally timed him to kick his heels together on drawing 40 & 41. I changed that in the animation to heels clicking together on drawing 38 and seeing him "float" in the air with drawings 39 to 44. The heel clicking is a passing "squash" into the "stretching" of the legs apart for 6 frames, which is what sells the action.

An interesting timing exercise is to:
1) expose all the drawings on 2 frames (doubling the scene duration);
2) expose the drawings in combinations of 1 frame and 2 frame exposures. You can expose all the drawings where the Joker lands on the ground for 2 frames and also do the same for the "floating" drawings.

You will see how the action will feel different with these varied timings. How you expose the drawings will have a subtle but definite effect on the scene.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Long Does It Take To Finish A Clean Up? #1

An anonymous comment was posted to my blog entry: "1st Pass Roughs, Semi-Roughs & Clean-ups: Hank the Spider Monkey & Batman." The person asked the question: "How long does it take to finish the clean up? For example that Batman. How long did the clean up artist (take) to finish the inking, painting and shading for every 1 frame?"

The answer to that question is not a simple one. It's not just a combination of how talented and fast the clean up artist is, how much pencil mileage (complication) there is to the design, and how much work the animator left for the clean up artist to correct/adjust. This question also suggests that the clean up, inking, painting and shading, etc of that drawing is going to be handled by the same person. Given what computer animation programs can do today, I know that painting a cleaned up drawing is very fast, but I am not on the production line and don't know how long a complicated color scheme (several different colored lines, multiple colors for costume, hair, etc.) takes to paint. The fastest I can paint one of our studio's Avenging Apes characters (using a bucket dump tool) in about five minutes. But I wouldn't want to be painting at that rate all day long.

Regarding cleaning up a rough drawing, again it depends on how much work the animator left for the clean up artist to correct/adjust. I spend 30 minutes to draw a semi-clean pose like the Batman drawings in question. It would take me another 30 minutes to clean it up on a new sheet of paper. This includes some rest time for my hand as these drawings need very tight pencil control. At other times, like drawing a fast action, I don't have to be as precise and can finish a clean-up in ten minutes.

Then comes the shading, which I consider to be a special effect, which needs to be done by an artist who understands how to handle that. It may be done by the same animator who animated the action, but that stage needs time to think out and accomplish.

This brings up (what is to me) an injustice. I consider the dumping of several stages of production onto the shoulders of one artist, but not scheduling the time to do it properly, to be unfair. Animation programs that can combine layout, key posing, and even create animatics into the storyboard stage, may seem to be wonderful to The Suits and Bean Counters, but it's a prime cause of burnout for the artist.

It's not just about the physical time it takes to do a particular stage of production, it is also about the reasonable amount of thinking/analysis time these stages need before a line is drawn. Someone who has the talent to visualize a script onto a storyboard doesn't necessarily have the makings of a layout person, who can block out the on-model poses for the animators, create solid backgrounds, etc. Nor should that storyboard artist also be expected to time the scenes as they are to appear in the story reel.

What infuriates me about today's animation industry is the race to the bottom regarding cost of production. I, myself, am a Suit and I know it has always been "Faster! Faster! Cheaper! Cheaper!" But at what cost? If the final product (however economically produced) does not interest its potential audience, than The Suits are to blame...not the medium itself for the lack of viewership.

As I said in one of my first posts on this blog: "As long as animation is treated purely as a manufactured product, the art of animation will never develop past what it has been in the past."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Good Old-Fashioned Cartoon Violence!

There's nothing as satisfying to animate as an old-fashioned cartoon-violent gag! It can be very cathartic emotionally ;-)

I don't want to get into a debate here about violence being a bad influence on our children. There's cartoon violence and there's graphic wanton violence. I'm of the very first generation of TV viewers growing up on continual reruns of the classic, unedited, unadulterated 1940s cartoons, and I knew the difference between real and cartoon at a very young age. Don't tell me that today's children can't tell the difference. For those who can't, there is something psychologically wrong with them that goes far deeper than just being influenced by a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon.

But I will say there is a time and place for cartoon violence. Sometimes, the best place to use it is as a way of showing interaction between two characters...especially if the characters are siblings...and half-human and half-ape at that.

I'll use this type of gag to show how to plan out the interaction between two characters on your x-sheet.

Here's a scene involving two of our studio's Avenging Apes characters: Zaire (left) and Algeria (right). They look alike because they are two-thirds of a set of fraternal triplets. Personality-wise, the triplets are very much like "Three Stooges": Zaire is Moe, and Algeria is an assertive Larry. (The third triplet, named Angola, is very Curly-like with a touch of Stan Laurel. He is very heavyset and doesn't look at all like his two brothers.)

Following the video clip are scene grabs. While watching the video, note how there is enough time for the characters to react to each other, and not "step" on the other's visual "business".

In a future post, I will show the x-sheets and explain my reasons for timing the scene the way I did.