January 04, 2009

Medicated Cartoon Life

Below are excerpts from the awesome Bitter Flash Animator's blog I visit every week, I love this guy, he expresses my frustrations with the cheap Flash Broadcast animation model that I see consuming our YTV/Teletoon Canadian channels, now more than ever, the way the economy currently is, lowering costs more and more is producing some strange looking shows as many Flash series are being done in China for half the costs...

You have one goal when animating in Flash for broadcast. To tell the story? No, that's what the writer is for. To convey emotion? What are you, some kind of poncy method actor?! No, the one true goal of broadcast Flash animation is to hide the symbol changes. That's it. That's what differentiates quality Flash from the cack in the minds of a whole bunch of people.
And I've seen the system to achieve this from many respected Flash animators - people who've worked on big shows. Shows you know, not the kind of crap I work on. This is the top way to animate in Flash.

The 'antic/settle' abuse system. Here's how it goes -
a) Antic. Take Pose 1. Stretch or squash slightly for anticipation (just move away from Pose 2 like it has the plague).

b) Sweep. Create sweep image that is somewhere roughly between Pose 1 and Pose 2. It doesn't matter if pieces are all over the place, you're only going to show this for one frame and nobody will ever see it.

c) Overshoot. Squash or stretch Pose 2 to overshoot the animation (just move your animation away from Pose 1 this time).

d) Hit Pose 2. Bounce up into Pose 2 proper. This is the settle.

e) Wobble. Move random piece. Hair perhaps. Doesn't really matter - just move something and let's say it's secondary action.

Use this system no matter what the mood is, action is, expression is.

I'll show you an example. Let's say I'm watching Ally McBeal and Billy is talking about how much he loves Ally. Then he dies! Holy crap, that was a shock! So I pull my two expressions from the library.
I've got everything I need right here. And I just work through the steps. I've skipped step d in the images because it ends up the same as the end anyway.
Two poses pulled from library (easy). Symbol switch hidden. And the arbitrary wobble makes it look expensive - secondary action doesn't come cheap. If you really want to get fancy, you can ease in your tweening for your antic and ease it out for your settle.

Use it for everything. Character jumps? Antic/settle abuse. Character shugs? Antic/settle abuse. Character raises eyebrow slightly? Antic/settle abuse.

And that is how to animate in Flash. Man, I should charge for such animation secrets. Or write a book. Because that's not just how to animate in Flash in our studio. No, I've seen this technique used in Flash animation from all over the world.

Thing is, some people look at this bounce, bounce, bounce animation and actually think it's bloody fantastic. Like that is what animation is supposed to look like.

But... it's not really animation, is it? It's just following a system to achieve one goal - hide one of the main issues with a Flash-for-broadcast (ie. cheap) system.

I'm seeing people being trained in this system. Like it's the only way to animate and if your scene bounce, bounce, bounces, then that's a good scene.

Is it the animator's fault? They are at the mercy of this Flash system. If they were to actually animate the scenes well and treat each scene as its own piece, they'd never hit their targets and remove the point of doing it all in Flash in the first place. And, while I may be mocking this method, I assure you it works. You'll have your scenes approved in no time. But that constant bouncing probably does untold brain damage to the viewers.

I love Flash as a personal tool. One animator, or two, with an idea, illustrating and realising that idea on their own. That's great. That's artistic expression. But when it was brought into the studios, it started killing scenes, pushing up numbers, pushing down costs - devaluing the craft.

When Disney make a television show based on one of their expensive movies. The designs just weren't meant to work on a tv budget and the animation comes across as piss poor. The cracks appear. Whereas a show like 2 Stupid Dogs, completely flat and all basic curves and angles, looks far better even though it takes a hell of a lot less to make. It worked within its means. That's why I think El Tigre (as an example) works. There's an example here.

It has vibrant designs with sometimes ambitious colouring that is easy in Flash and wouldn't have been easy back in the old cel days. It relies on strong action posing that requires very little between them to work - just a bit of the antic/settle abuse system. It has a bank of well-designed yet easy-to-use expressions, with some nazi control over the animators.

It knows the limits of the system and works well within them.
Some use the antic/settle abuse and don't look as well. Skunk Fu (click this to see a sample in what appears to be Klingon) doesn't hide the symbol changes as well and the more you see the symbol changes, the scrappier and cheaper the animation looks.

Hiding those symbol changes really is the one true goal of Flash animation.

1 comment:

Bitter Animator said...

Awwww... I love you too, Ron!