Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Frank Thomas Pencil Test - Lady and Tramp kiss

I have posted this pencil test on my blog previously , but thought that I'd repost it to bring your attention to some of the drawings from this sequence posted recently on Michael Sporn's excellent blog . Click on the link to Michael's blog to see the drawings.

L & T drawings

Here's the pencil test:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Classic Milt Kahl pencil test

I could watch these pencil tests for hours .  (I wish Disney would release special pencil test editions on the "extras" sections of the DVD's .)  

Mowgli trying to climb the tree , animated by Milt Kahl.

From Disney's "The Jungle Book". 

(found via Alan Cook, via Victor Ens)

Friday, April 17, 2009

An old one , but a good one : The Training of a Golden Age Animator

Looking through some notes today I found a link to a couple of old posts on other people's blogs that are worth reading for any of you animation students (and worth reading for those of us who have been around the business for a while) .

The first is an article on the ASIFA Animation Archive called "The Training of a Golden Age Animator" , which came about when the director of the ASIFA Animation Archive, Steve Worth, was asking himself the question: "What sort of education did golden age animators have? "

Steve posts some examples from the life of master animator Carlo Vinci.

The essay , "The Training of a Golden Age Animator" should be read and taken to heart by all of us who would be students of the art of animation.

The second bit of wisdom I have for you was posted by Will Finn : A Letter From Ward Kimball.   

When he was in High School the young Mr. Finn wrote to Disney animator Ward Kimball for advice about getting into the animation field. Kimball's letter, written in typical iconoclastic Kimball style, is a very sage piece of advice and despite the breezy style conveys that Kimball respected and cared for young animators or wannabe animators like Will Finn (who in fact went on to become one of our finest contemporary animators) .

Here is the reply that Ward Kimball sent to Will Finn:

Kimball letter to Finn

Good reading.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

SHOP TALK: Cintiq tablets and Paperless Animation

The latest issue of Steve Moore's online animation magazine FLIP! has a survey of animator's who are using Cintiq tablets for their professional and personal animation work.

Many of our students at Academy of Art University Online are animating paperlessly using Cintiqs and/or Intous tablets in our "traditional" (i.e. hand-drawn) animation classes . So this round up of professional opinions of how the workflow is changing (for better or worse) using tablet-based paperless animation is on interest.

Check out the discussion:

SHOP TALK: How Do You Like Your Cintiq ?

It's always interesting to listen to animators discussing their favorite tools (it used to be that animators would get in to long, often passionate discussions about what was the "best" pencil .)

I think my friend Rusty Mills has the most detailed answers about what it means to be a traditional animator working on a Cintiq .  Rusty emphasizes that it's not the Cintiq (or other tablets) that make something difficult to draw or to achieve a good line quality: it's the software being used and the computer that the tablet is attached to.

Rusty debunks several myths about using a Cintiq, such as:

"The Cintiq has terrible line quality."

Again it it entirely dependent on the software. Often the user doesn't know enough about a software package to alter the look of the line. I have even seen particular studios mandate bad line quality because the people in charge don't know how to use the software correctly.

If you find using a Cintiq alters your drawing style for the worse try changing some of the setting both in your software and in the tablet driver itself.

Following up on some of what Rusty talks about in that article on the "FLIP!" site here are things that I have found help to make animating with a tablet a much more enjoyable experience:

1.) Adjust the Digital Drawing Tools to your own preferences:

Also, an important point often missed by beginners to tablet based drawing is that the individual animator needs to make adjustments to the pre-set brushes and pencil tools that come with the software , be it TVPaint , Toonboom, or Flash, etc. The digital drawing tools in these programs can and should be tweaked to fit your own preferences , exactly as some animators prefer a certain type of pencil over another. (Blackwing 602 or Blaisdell Layout Pencil? Tombow or Col-Erase Tuscan Red ? ) Don't simply use the default settings on the drawing tools as they come with the software off the shelf . Play. Experiment . Try adjusting the tools until you get a "pencil" or a "pen" line that feels comfortable to draw with.

In addition to adjusting the drawing tools to fit your own preferences also be aware that some of the better animation programs such as TVP Animation (highly recommended) have custom "papers" which can be turned on in the background. The paper will give a more textured, toothy feel to the drawing , simulating the feel of drawing on a slightly rough surfaced paper.

For example here is a rough character sketch I did in TVP Animation with my own custom pencil tools . Most people looking at this sketch would have no idea that it wasn't drawn on paper:

(click image to see it larger)

2.) Project Resolution Size:

Another thing that many people overlook is that screen resolution of the project does matter : if your original file is low-res. like 640 x 480 you will not have nearly the same amount of control and subtly of line as working at full 2K Film Resolution 2048 x 1556 . Many people like to work at HD "wide-screen" resolution 1920 x 1080. Trying to get subtle line quality at 640 x 480 is like drawing on the back of a napkin or on a Post-It note compared to working on a large canvas or a large piece of high-grade bond paper. Sometimes I will work at lower resolutions if I'm just blocking in rough sketches that I know are not going to be any larger, the same as I will sometimes do a rough storyboard using Post-It notes , but if the line quality counts then use a larger resolution .

Then when you export your finished animation for uploading to a website you can reduce the size (say 2048 x 1556 output to 640 x 480 ) so the file sizes aren't unmanageable , but the original resolution should be as high as your computer can reasonably handle (this can become an issue if you don't have enough memory or your CPU is not fast enough ; as always a faster computer with more memory will run better. If your animation software runs sluggishly at high resolutions then it's time to upgrade ) .

3.) Wacom Pen Nibs:

Finally, be aware of the different types of stylus nibs that Wacom makes . The standard hard plastic nib that comes with the pen stylus can tend to be a bit slippery and hard to control as it skates across the surface of the tablet. Some people solve this by putting a thin piece of tracing paper vellum or a frosted (matte surface) piece of acetate over the tablet's surface to give the surface of the the tablet a bit of "grain" so the pen tip isn't quite so slippery. But another option that I prefer (especially for sketching rough animation drawings) is to use the Wacom "Felt Tip" nibs. These fiberous nibs feel more like drawing with a real pencil and are not as slippery as the standard plastic nib. For digital clean-up or "inking" I will sometimes use the Wacom "Stroke Nibs" which are like the standard plastic tip nibs, but they have a little spring in them which gives them a more flexible, springy feeling when laying down a line.

Here's another example of a "traditional" looking drawing done with a Cintiq tablet using the TVP Animation software:

(click image to view larger)

This is by Academy of Art Online instructor Mark Chong. Here's a screen capture time lapse movie of Mark drawing this in TVP:

Here's another video I found on YouTube showing the process of animating a traditional style animation scene (this time using Flash) in a paperless environment on the Cintiq tablet.