Animation

So the animation project I was working on for four months is animated. It’s an episode of the No Budget Show. I said I’d post something about what I learned once it was done.

First, some links that you might find nice:
This explanation of the bouncing ball is pretty great. It gets into variations on the bounce, and use of the bounce in a walking animation. I only found this once this project was pretty much done, so it had no real influence.

John K’s blog. I don’t have the time to emulate his full animation stuff, but some of his posts on limited animation were helpful. He wrote a couple recent posts on head bobs in Hanna-Barbera cartoons, which is again too late for me to apply to this project, but is pretty interesting. Over the course of this project I did take to heart a couple things he wrote about backgrounds and character poses.

NockFORCE is pretty cool, and does occupy that sweet spot you want to hit with limited animation, where there’s enough going on that the visuals make it funnier, but not so much that two guys can’t animate it in their spare time.

Years ago, I made a comic strip for the student paper called F–king the Dog. At the time I was fixated on the idea of making my drawings consistent, so I scanned one drawing of each character into the computer and then modified them a little bit for different facial expressions and arm gestures. Later, I made a comic strip called Gutterwidth. Every Gutterwidth I drew from scratch, and didn’t really worry about consistency. Gutterwidth is a better comic, and often took less time to make.

One thing that helped was the character design in Gutterwidth. The characters were made visually distinct enough that I could alter them drastically and they were still recognizable.

Similar rules apply to the design of animated characters. Make sure they are all visually distinct. Can you tell your characters apart just by silhouette? Can you tell them apart just by colour scheme? Then you can distort them wildly and they will still be recognizable. That gives you freedom while animating to draw different poses.

And different poses are a good thing. If you’re doing limited animation, use lots of different poses, because that helps keep the visuals from getting repetitive, and allows you another means of expression. But don’t bother animating the transitions between the poses unless you can justify there’s entertainment or information to be had from seeing that transition in action.

Now, I did re-use poses in this cartoon, but every scene had a few poses that were unique to it.

For backgrounds on this project, I started out making the common mistake of making them too flat. If I had a brick wall, I drew two or three bricks here, one over there, not drawing all the bricks, (which is fine) and making sure there were no spots that were too full of bricks or too empty. (which is not fine) You want something that’s uneven in an interesting way. John K has some lovely examples on his blog for backgrounds.

For lip sync, I built one thing in actionscript that used SoundMixer.computeSpectrum() to change the x and y scale of a mouth, and another thing that let me control the mouth like a puppet using the mouse, and record that movement for future use. And I also just did lip sync on the time line, or with just a mouth opening and closing cycle. This is one area where I didn’t use John K as my main influence, since he relishes a good lip sync, while I was just trying to get it over with as quickly as I could in any way I could. I was more influenced by television anime or this Welcome to the Cartoon Show when it came to lip sync. I also foisted a lot of it off onto the other people working on the project. I haven’t examined what they did, but when I get a chance, I’ll see if they had any new approaches I should learn.

More once the episode is online.

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