Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Computer Animation vs Traditional Animation

I know what you're thinking? They're both animation, right?! Well. Yes. And no. They both have a their advantages and disadvantages.

In computer animation, you can make mistakes and easily correct them.You can also instantly play back a scene to check everything looks OK - but the main problem lies in input. Unless you have a lot of money to spend on a very sexy graphics tablet, then drawing directly into the computer can be a royal pain. I have a tablet, its a only the size of a postage stamp - but it suffices. I have been wanting to upgrade for ages - but I'm too lazy to get a job and like an excuse to use the word paradox as often as possible inside the hours of a single day. The problem is, they cost a whole bunch of money. I was lucky enough to get mine nice and cheap, when Amazon made a pricing cock-up. Hurrah for cock-ups. But even my extremely small postage stamp sized Wacom tablet should have cost near enough a £100. The next step is around £300. So the problem is: input.

On top of the cost, a tablet isn't the most accurate thing to use. You are watching a screen and drawing with your hand in your peripheral vision. This is quite weird to get used to - but you adjust. It's just frustrating when you get a the correct line and run out of tablet to draw that line on. There are many other niggly bits too - Flash isn't strictly for animation: in fact its pretty damn naff really if you don't abuse the power of actionscript, but coding really was never my strong point. Also, there is a tendency to tween a lot in computer animation - this is where the computer does all the work. This don't look natural if you tween everything - but sadly because everything is tweened these days, it has become quite normal and people think things that are fully animated look 'weird' because everything isn't robotic.

So traditional animation then? Well the problem is, if you are a beginner - seeing the continuity of images can be quite difficult and the process of going from drawing to shooting your scene to check it works is a lot longer than if you use a computer. Then you have to go back and do entire drawings again instead of been able to delete the incorrect frame and touch it up. Again, input is the problem. Transferring your drawings from paper to digital ink can be quite a challenge if you don't own the right machinary. There are many ways to do it - I have tried nearly all of them and you just end up with nasty looking stuff, rather than the sleek, smooth looking stuff you get from drawing directly into a computer - albeit simplified sleek, smooth looking stuff.

The other problem is timing. Developing a sense of timing is a long process and I can plainly openly say: I don't have one yet. Im getting there. It's something I thought you could figure out as you went along, but it turns out its something you have to practise daily and pace around your room taking out beats in your head and learning to divide up a second a thousand different ways planning each movement on the beat on the dot so that your character doesn't look like he is skating along, or in one place : then another. Timing and weight are the essence of animation - ive got weight pretty much down. I understand physics, mass and how gravity effects both - objective weight, physiology, biology and all the other things people don't think even come into animation. I have a decent grip on them - but timing is my next port of call and I will get it - but doing that on paper is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo hard. So im learning by doing - on the computer.

There are many other problems that come with both Computer and Traditional animation. Computer takes a lot more effort and time to really bring things to life, but paper takes a lot more time to make into a film. I'm getting there though, slowly but surely. It is just such a huge curve when you are teaching yourself.

Here is an exercise I did last night. I'm doing one a day to keep myself in practise. It's just a run cycle, but these are the kind of things you need to practise doing if you wana make believeable animation. All the inbetweens aren't there - because I don't have an inbetweener and again, I am just one man.

"A walk is the FIRST thing to learn. Learn walks of all kinds, 'cause walks are about the toughest thing to do right" - Ken Harris


Monday, 11 August 2008

Tickles' Magic Pickles

Tickles Magic Pickles is a cartoon by Happy Harry of Newgrounds fame that you can watch here:

Luckily, Happy Harry isn't likely to ever read this because its all probably a little bit embarrassingly 'wet'. But I genuinely enjoy his cartoons and think not only are his ideas original, funny and well conceived, but they are also fantastically animated. I was quite surprised to find out he was British to be fair, but also I was pretty chuffed because in the world of animation people tend to be American or French Canadian. He's a good earner for our side - lets put it that way.

What I love most about his cartoons on Newgrounds is that you can see his skills improve as he animates more and more and that gives me the confidence I need to complete a project that I might not be 100% with. It means that I can chalk it down to experience and know that my next piece will be a thousand times better than my last. (Another thing that I like is that he speaks the Queen's English and his grammar and punctuation are fantastic - but that's just something I like in a person. I don't do all this text language nonsense.)

To go into a bit of detail about his animating style, ill begin with his background design. It's very much his own style and you can see this continuation and confidence in his work across his last few cartoons from Pickles to Chuck's New Tux - (Also available by that link above). I personally try to change my style each time round to try out lots of things because I am searching for my own style - he is my age and he has obviously found something he is comfortable with and I very much envy that. His backgrounds remind me of Powerpuff Girl's backgrounds - which on a first read, may sound quite offensive - but look more closely at a Powerpuff episode next time and you'll see the best thing in it is the background design. It's all hand painted in Gouasche with brilliant mono-chrome colouring. I think it looks fantastic. The artist Lou Romano painted them and you can see more of his fantastic work here:

Next up is his animation style. In his earlier work (Which he would probably write off now I'm guessing) you can see the beginnings of his style coming out, but its slower and you can see he is putting a little less effort into his FBF work (That's Frame-by-Frame) to save time. Patience in my experience comes with age. I wouldn't have been able to sit down a few years ago and concentrate for 6-8 hours at a time. Like all things you improve with practise and this is so evident in his work. Suddenly, with Pickles everything comes together. Great backgrounds and great animation. The main character move fluidly - zipping around and you always feel he is an excited kid telling you a story - this is held up by some fantastic frame-by-frame work on the little girl with her busted tricycle. Her mouth takes up half her (Very circular - easier to animate) head and the way she waggles her arms around at the beginning - well I can tell you I have FBF'd that a zillion times and it still impresses me. The movements are seemingly random, but so well times and well constructed. And the end results shows the hard work - you instantly know that its a little girl having a hissy fit. Brilliant.

I know he is working on a new toon at the moment and I am greatly looking forward to it. He has posted just one image in his announcement and it already looks like he is set to take another giant leap forward. I'm a big fan and I will be keeping up with his work for a long time.

To finish this post I will leave you with another image from the last few days work. I will also tell you that I have almost finished the opening segment of the cartoon - nearly a half week ahead of schedule.

Friday, 8 August 2008

It begins!

Last night it started. About 1 in the morning. Some experimentation and a lack of self-control led me to start work on the first scene. A few hours later, with some research and some new ideas firmly planted in my head I had a result...but things are already taking shape. Animating in Flash is very different from animating 'normally' with paper and thus there may be several revisions that need making. I can't frame-by-frame the entire thing, I'm only one sad human being - not fifteen. That said, I am doubling my efforts. I will be posting more about different techniques I'm using and how I'm going to get around things - but those posts might not be readable until I have finished the cartoon, so that I don't spoil it for you. But as a treat I'll leave you with a screeny from the scene I did last night before I begin work on the next shot.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

First Digital Pic

I couldn't resist drawing them up digitally. Not even an hour after my last post - here you go. The first digital image of Frank & Jnr. This is a very early image remember, so a lot is probably gunna change.

In a nutshell.

So what exactly is Frank & Jnr and why am I going to put two months (Probably more - hopefully less) of my life into this cartoon?

Well primarily, its because I love animating, creating and drawing - but it is also because I am a student of the fine art known as animation and not only do I need to learn more about it by doing it, but I also need to create work to hand in to my university course. So, im starting my first project early, to get ahead of the game. "But why do you have to put it in a blog?", I hear you say? "Have you just got a big head?", I hear you cry knowingly.

No. Well, yes. But no. For my last few projects I found the easiest way to get a good level of work and manage to create an animated featurette was to make notes of my ideas and the work that I was doing as I went along. I did this in the form of a blog and I achieved my best mark of the year with a 42-page document, commenting on and recording everything I did towards my cartoon. It was a great way to make progress on my cartoon and put my full attention into making the piece, without having to worrying I was falling behind on the paper work. It also kept all the drawings, videos, research and other bits of work that I was doing 'behind the scenes' in one place, so my tutors and examiners could easily see how much effort was going into my work and how enthused I was to be spending 4 - 7 hours of my life A DAY making animated shorts.

Now that all that is out of the way I will tell you a little bit more about the cartoon. You have met both of the characters and now they must have a plot to play through. In my previous pieces, I always drew up a plot line and placed a character into it. This time around not only have the no. of characters doubled to 2, but I have developed them first so that I can explore situational comedy. This involves creating the characters and their personalities and trying to imagine how they would react in an over-the-top situation.

Now at this stage I don't want to give the whole plot line away. Otherwise you wouldn't bother sticking around and reading this blog anymore. So, instead I'm going to whet your appetites. The whole plot of Frank & Jnr, is written in this book:

(Yup, I'm a Spongebob Fan)

It is a 60 page document and it contains around 97% of the scenes that I will be doing the drawing, animating, directing, background design, voice overs, sound effects, music, editing and producing for.

Wanna have a peek inside?!


Ok. Go on then. But just a few pages!

This is without a doubt my most ambitious project yet, thus it is going to take a while to create and its going to be a challenge, with a huge learning curve. But I am excited and looking forward to putting the effort in to get the reward out. I have mainly started this blog to help me keep track of the work I am doing and have done, but also it is to encourage me to keep going. If I feel like I'm working for other people and their interest, then I will work harder.

So, if you wanna come along for the ride, you are more than welcome to leave comments with suggestions, critique, help, encouragement, questions or even just a friendly hello and they will not be ignored. If you just wanna look to keep informed until I release the cartoon. That is also just dandy. Any interest what-so-ever is not only welcome, it is appreciated :)

I will be updating this blog in the next few days as work begins.

'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.' - Lewis Carroll

Introducing: Jnr

Jnr (Short for Junior, as you probably already knew) is a huge lump of happy. He takes up at least 3 fillings of the worlds happy count a day. He is like a 3 year old child who just downed 80 tubes of Smarties (When Smarties were cool and still had E numbers). He is excitable and fun - but he is also massive and Frank is quite small - so this combination can often end up putting Frank in danger.

Oops! Here I am talking about him and you haven't even met Jnr yet! Here he is. Say hello!

Jnr's life started off even stranger than, Franks. Frank needed a sidekick - some fun to counter his 'boring', if you will. Thus, I began drawing many exotic looking, deranged characters - many of which will never ever be posted here. And I made this extremely strange drawing next to Frank one day:

From this drawing and several others that are just too light to see on the intranets - Jnr was born. And so was his personality.

I knew I wanted him to be cooky and insane - but I didn't know exactly how over the top he would be until I finished drawing up the plot line. And now I can tell you he's pretty damn....happy! Lets use the word happy, its less offensive.

So. I guess all that is left to tell you know is exactly what I want Frank & Jnr to be and where it is heading. And I will do that in the next post, so click on.

Introducing: Frank

Now. You have only just joined the journey if you are reading this blog and you are thinking: Frank & Jnr. What the dickens is that all about? Well to answer your question I have made two posts - one all about Frank and the other all about Jnr.

Meet Frank:

Frank is quite a miserable character now, but he wasn't always this way. In fact when I first penned him, he was quite cooky and funny. See:

(Some of the images might be quite light due to my paper choice - but if you click them you can see fullscreen versions)

So what happened to, Frank? Well one day he just cracked:

But I think it was mostly due to the arrival of Jnr - who you can find about in my next post. Jnr snores really loud you see...and this made Frank loose a lot of sleep - until he ended up like this:

Jnr is also quite a playful fella. So it can get to Frank if he hasn't had much sleep.

But Jnr is Frank's responsibility - although, Frank can't for the life of him remember why.

Frank & Jnr

About two months ago, I began to draw a character I liked to call, Frank. He started off quite tall, quite fun and full of life. But he has ended up short, moody and impatient. He is my dark side. The grumpy person you get out of me first thing on a morning - but he really is quite nice at heart. Frank is only a young drawing, but he has grown (Or rather he has shrunk down to his appropriate size) very quickly - and each time I set pen to paper, he becomes more distorted.

Frank lives with Jnr - A giant, looming tower of stupid that seems incapable of experiencing pain. He can be blown up, squashed or splattered, but he will feel nothing. He doesn't know it himself, but I know its because he is a cartoon. And cartoons cannot experience this phenomenon known as pain.

So whats do Frank & Jnr do? What are they? Who are they? Do they live in some sort of hole in the ground? Can they breath underwater? Are they into s&m? Well.... this blog is where you will find out all of the answers to your questions and keep up to date on the latest happenings as I spend the next few months bringing these two characters to life in a new story I have just finished draughting this very day.

Here. Right here on this very page, is where I will be posting pictures, news, rants and maybe even short clips of my new up-and-coming cartoon. Things will start small. But they will end big. And you can be here the whole way to watch the cartoon grow from embryo, to full finished animated short.

Exciting, isn't it?