Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wearing Two Hats #2: The Artist and Businessman Existing Under One Roof

A comment was made regarding my previous post on this topic. The comment was:

"Some where I read that an artist can not be a good business(man) and a business(man) can not be (a) good artist at (the same) time. Artists are passionate people for art and business man balanced sheet for profit."

The opposite extremes of anything (whether it be animation or politics) are constantly at each others' throats, trying to dominate a common territory. It's the constant straining against each other that keeps progress at a minimum, if not a standstill.


A businessman/woman who doesn't understand the need to be creative in order to bring something new to the marketplace is doomed to see their customers grow tired of what is being offered for sale. This will eventually result in a drop of sales and profit... and eventually enough so that the business may fail. This is why it is necessary to budget for creatives/artists searching for and developing new products/programming/etc, without an eye totally on the balance sheet.


The artist who wants to make a living with his/her artistic abilities, must understand that there must be buyers for these abilities/creations. Passion is wonderful when it helps you do your very best, but not when it keeps you from completing a job and getting paid. Artists must know where to draw the line between personal and professional works. Passion alone doesn't pay the bills...give your best for what you're being paid to do...and save your passion for your bedroom.

An example of a person with equal amounts of passion/creativity and sense of business: Steve Jobs

Your additional comments are welcomed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wearing Two Hats: Artist and Businessman

Animation has always been a business, but that's not the reason most people get into it. Usually, it is because a young person wants to tell a story or because of the need/enjoyment of creating a world full of characters.

As an artist, I always wish for unlimited budgets and unlimited time to craft my work. But as a businessman I have to squeeze every dollar I get. You only have so much money in your budget. The funds have to be spread out. Where do you put your money?

For me the important elements are: story, design, and the planning of key animation scenes. So, I look at everything I do with an eye on getting the most out of every drawing I make.

This affects my decision regarding animation choices such as:
1) Putting an action on one frame exposure or two frames.
2) Do I level the body as a held cel or trace it continually for several drawings? Or do I run a cycle of three traced back bodies to maintain a flicker of "life"?
3) Can I reuse a strong action several times in different scenes by changing the fielding and/or flopping the drawings to move in the opposite direction? And so on.

It doesn't hurt the artist in me to be creative in searching for solutions that will help the businessman in me to pay the bills. In fact, I believe it forces the artist to focus on what is important in the scene.

The following is a short "Rant"

For me, creating an animated film is like baking a cake and icing it. There are so many elements that go into the process that, if the baker doesn't use the right ingredients and proportions, the cake can easily be ruined. For me, the most important part is the body of the cake, not the icing. A simple layer of icing on a tasty cake is a wonderful touch, but it isn't the most important element.


However, now that film producers have the computer technology to put up on the screen almost anything one can imagine, they spend fortunes on making beautiful icing, but insist on using it to cover very substandard cake.

In fact, for me the vast majority of today's animated features (and live action films) are all icing and no cake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boba Fett & The Star Wars Holiday Special!

In mid-1978, the animation staff at Nelvana finished up on "The Devil and Daniel Mouse", and was put on George Lucas' "Secret Project". Remember, Star Wars had just come out the previous summer and was THE mega hit! So, it was exciting to see the initial designs for the sequel.

George had decided to introduce the new villain (Boba Fett) in an animated comic book format in "The Star Wars Holiday Special" that was going to air on TV in December of 1978. Nelvana was selected to produce the completed animation based on our "A Cosmic Christmas", which George liked very much.


At that time, Heavy Metal (Magazine) was the graphic cutting edge for Science Fiction/Fantasy. The decision was made to go with a graphic style based on the artist Moebius (pseudonym for Jean Giraud) whose art was appearing in the French magazine Metal Hurlant (published in the United States under the title Heavy Metal).

Here are the model sheets for Boba Fett (by Frank Nissen, who designed the show), some of my rough first pass poses, and thumbnail sketches. It was a challenge to animate a performance with a character that had no facial features to work with. I had to use hand gestures, head tilts, and body language.

Following the artwork is the animated comic book that introduced Boba Fett. The entire show was animated in 6 to 8 weeks. When viewing this material, remember that in 1978 full animation industry-wide was pretty much dead except at Disney's.












Saturday, August 20, 2011

Animation Muscles: Use Them Or Lose Them

The old saying "Use it or lose it" very much applies to what I call "animation muscles". It is not just daily drawing that keeps these muscles strong, it is thinking about timing and analysis of action that keeps them toned.

I'll watch TV with a sketch book and pencil in hand and quickly draw feet, eyes, hands, facial expressions, simple body types in action...running, leaping, turning, twisting. I'll chart elaborate paths of actions (ups and downs, twirling, etc) and time out how many frames to assign them.


I'll play with the idea of "consecutive breaking of the joints" to get the feeling of fluidity in movement. Draw the various stages of a generic arm waving around. Analyze where the force comes from. Does it start with the shoulder or the elbow? It makes a difference in what you are trying to portray in the character's acting.

Think of this process as "Aerobics for the Animator's Mind."

Here's a sample of a doodle page I played on while sitting on my front porch, taking some air.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Forced Perspective on Physical Action: Batman Swinging on Rope and Landing

Here is an example where the forced perspective of the scene setup will make your individual animation drawings look strange. The proportions of the elements of the character's body will look wrong frame by frame, but not in motion.


Background with extreme upshot perspective.
Batman's body in normal proportions.


Left leg swings forward.


Extreme perspective as Batman is coming down for landing.


Batman's foot touches down. Impetus of forward motion forces upper torso to bend forward at the waist. The body "squashes" as Batman hits the ground.

Lower torso has lost forward momentum due to foot touch-down. Upper portion of body moving ahead of lower portion. Body into "stretch".



Upper torso at its most forward. Combination of holding on to rope and second foot touch-down about to cause shift in impetus in opposite direction.



Batman lands on third foot touch-down and...

...brings trailing foot to stop position.




The rest of this short scene consists of Batman on multiple levels for cape overlapping action and mouth positions for dialogue. There is also a quick bit of animation of Batman tossing the rope aside to accent a word.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

24 Frames Per Second Vs 30 Frames Per Second

As the old saying goes: Timing is Everything! Without the ability to refine and be precise, an animator cannot do his/her best work. 

The following is a portion of a scene from one of my studio's in-house promotions for our Go Go Gorillas Fun Center. It shows two characters (Hank the Spider Monkey and Libya, one of our Avenging Apes of Africa) keeping time to a musical beat.

video

I prefer animating my scenes using the rate of 24 frames per second. I know that there are many higher rates of speed that give crisper images, etc. That's fine for live action. But for animation, 24 fps gives me the best option for timing. Also, I don't have to create more drawings to be projected.

(The following is a little complicated. Ask me questions if I confuse you.)

In regards to timing: 24 fps allows me to work with 12 beats per second (2 frames per beat), 8 beats per second (3 frames per beat), 6 beats per second (4 frames per beat), 4 beats per second (6 frames per beat), 3 beats per second (8 frames per beat), 2 beats per second (12 frames per beat), 1 beat per second (24 frames per beat). These all work perfectly with a metronome.


All of the commonly used beats (4, 3, 2, & 1 per second) can be exposed 2 frames per drawing.

However, if 30 fps is used, then you have to create as many as 6 more drawings per second of film. And the beats are not as musically based. So, that means animating a dance sequence would be extremely difficult.

30 fps works out to: 15 beats per second (2 frames per beat), 10 beats per second (3 frames per beat), 6 beats per second (5 frames per beat), 5 beats per second (6 frames per beat), 3 beats per second (10 frames per beat), 2 beats per second (15 frames per beat), 1 beat per second (30 frames per beat).

Note there is no way to have an even 4 beats per second rate using 30 fps. 4 beats a second is the most common way to do a fast run cycle that conveys weight to a character. It's not the only way, but it is the usual way.

Also note that:
1) the commonly used beats of the 30 fps rate (6, 5, 3, & 2 per second) can not be animated solely with 2 frame exposures per drawing;
2) an up and down beat would necessitate an odd number of exposures going in one direction or the other.

This is hard to visualize, so I suggest using a simple bouncing ball animation to experiment and see for yourself. Again, I welcome your questions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tool$ Of The Trade #2 and Some Eye Candy

I posted yesterday's question to get a conversation going, and so far it's been an informative one.

Continuing along that thread:
I say that (at most) schools can only give a person a basic understanding of what is involved in animation. It is the experience on the job that truly teaches how to solve problems and develop one's talents. Over the years, I have run across a lot of "graduates" who don't realize that they have only started the learning process.

Perhaps one of the benefits of obstacles (whether financial or otherwise) is that it filters out those who don't have a certain amount of "fire-in-the-belly" that is needed to become a professional animator.



Comments are welcomed...


And now for the Eye Candy!


This original drawing of Superman by Wayne Boring is one of my prized possessions. Wayne drew the iconic Superman comic books of the 1950s, and as a kid I imitated Wayne's drawing poses of Superman flying up in the sky. In 1975, I met Wayne at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, Long Island...we were both working on the feature film Tubby the Tuba. It was my first job in animation as an inbetweener, and I believe it may have been Wayne's last job in animation. Wayne gave this drawing to me on his last day of work at the studio.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Boba Fett & The Star Wars Holiday Special

In mid-1978, the animation staff at Nelvana finished up on "The Devil and Daniel Mouse", and was put on George Lucas' "Secret Project". Remember, Star Wars had just come out the previous summer and was THE mega hit! So, it was exciting to see the initial designs for the sequel.

George had decided to introduce the new villain (Boba Fett) in an animated comic book format in "The Star Wars Holiday Special" that was going to air on TV in December of 1978. Nelvana was selected to produce the completed animation based on our "A Cosmic Christmas", which George liked very much.


At that time, Heavy Metal (Magazine) was the graphic cutting edge for Science Fiction/Fantasy. The decision was made to go with a graphic style based on the artist Moebius (pseudonym for Jean Giraud) whose art was appearing in the French magazine Metal Hurlant (published in the United States under the title Heavy Metal).

Here are the model sheets for Boba Fett (by Frank Nissen, who designed the show), some of my rough first pass poses, and thumbnail sketches. It was a challenge to animate a performance with a character that had no facial features to work with. I had to use hand gestures, head tilts, and body language.

Following the artwork is the animated comic book that introduced Boba Fett. The entire show was animated in 6 to 8 weeks. When viewing this material, remember that in 1978 full animation industry-wide was pretty much dead except at Disney's.















Tool$ of the Trade?

An Officer Quadhole pose from Rock & Rule

Question:
Is the Animation Industry's reliance on expensive computer equipment potentially shutting out young talented artists who can't afford to buy all this expensive equipment for themselves to develop their talents on?

Not everyone in these hard times has the financial ability to spend the few thousand dollars it takes to do so. It's not the same as springing for a box of pencils and some paper.

When it was all just about the ability to animate with pencil on paper, being able to knock together a basic animation desk wasn't financially difficult. It was affordable to all.

However, I don't know of many artists with the knowledge and capability to construct their own Cintiq and computer out of a drafting table, Plexiglas, some two x fours, and fluorescent lighting.

Your thoughts? Anyone?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How 2D Cartoons Were Made: The Old School Way

I have always considered this film by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to be the most comprehensive documentary explaining the production of an animated cartoon. This was filmed in early 1978 and broadcast later that same year.





 

Here are some thumbnails I did on that production (when I was a very young pup). The important thing to remember is that the purpose for thumbnailing your poses is that you are working out your analysis of the scene -- not trying to create art for the ages. Some people can draw beautiful thumbnails, and that is wonderful! ...but not the point of the process. Don't pour so much effort into the thumbnails to the point that you have nothing left to put into your actual key drawings.

The thumbnails above were my working out portions of the final song.
The thumbnails above were done after working out the scene with my director,
as shown in part one of the documentary.
DAN MOUSE MODEL SHEET COBBLED TOGETHER FROM PRODUCTION DRAWINGS



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Batman Semi-clean Rough Poses & X-Sheet: Clean-up and Inbetweening Exercise

Here are the drawings and X-sheet for one of my Batman commercial scenes.
Before making any drawings, it is absolutely important that you (as an assistant animator) familiarize yourself with what is happening on the X-sheets!


Note how drawings are being exposed. There are some drawings later in the scene that work in and out of poses used earlier in the scene. Understand what the animator has planned before you start on your phase of the process to complete the scene. Many an inexperienced assistant has ignored this, only to have to toss out very-good-but-useless drawings because they thought they knew it all. Think twice, draw once!


At the end of this post is the completed Batman / Catwoman commercial that has this scene. Study the following drawings, then run the commercial to see how the scene works within it. Also, check out the lip sync of Batman's dialoque: "Paws off the customers, Catwoman!"


If you are so inclined, feel free to download these drawings, repegging them using the cross-hairs on each for registration. Then clean them up yourself and complete the inbetween drawings, as you would be required to if you were my assistant animator.




Note the extreme aspect of the right arm in this breakdown drawing

The extreme positioning of the right arm may look wrong, but it will feel right in motion.