Thursday, October 10, 2013

Project: Animating the Sack Drop

Your layout drawing should have only the main key positions of the sack and not every single drawing of the entire action. 1) The sack on the counter, 2) the sack slumped just about ready to move into the fall, 3) The sack first contacting the floor and 4) The final position of the sack on the ground. You also want to have a layout of your background, making sure there isn't not a lot of detail around where your main action will be.

As for the timing, you want the sack to hold at the beginning for at least a few seconds to allow the viewer to take in the entire scene. The sack can be motivated into the fall which you need to figure out how to do using your layout drawing. You can start with the sack slowly slumping forward (1) in the direction of the fall, starting off very slowly and gaining speed as the upper body continues forward. Once at position (2), the last drawing of the sack on the table, this is where gravity needs to take over. The sack must go faster as it travels to the floor. Many students make the mistake of evenly spacing each drawing of the sack during the fall. Too many drawings and the sack appears to be moving slowly downward, too few drawings and the motion may be too quick to see.

Here's a sack hitting the floor by showing a few drawings to anticipate the fall. The drawings of the sack increase in distance during the fall and then there is a large gap where the sack is half way and then pops to the floor and settles. This quick motion works and you can feel the weight of the bag hitting the floor. Here's Aileen Contreras's work.
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The sack below is motivated into a fall by a baseball hitting it. This was the first pass and the ball hits, bounces away and hop perfectly onto another sack. This action of the ball hopping away, takes away from the sack animation. On the next pencil test, the ball's action should be reduced after the hit, allowing the viewer's attention to the focus on the sack falling. Here's Jay Hongvarivatana's work.

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Once the sack hits the floor, the sack doesn't freeze, but eases out and settles into a hold position. You can see this in Aim Pattarachanyakul's work which could use a few more drawings to settle the sack at the end.
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This exercise helps you see problems in how the bag moves. Playing the animation at speed is not enough, you really have to analyze the moving frame by frame. Then you can see the spacing changes and if the sack shapes are looking right or not. The biggest mistake is making the sack look as if the upper part is sagging into itself or moving more like an animal, by leaping off the counter. Anything that looks odd like that, you can see it better by using Quicktime player instead of Media Player, because you can scroll through it frame by frame. If you have another approach or software, I'd love to hear about it.

Here's a beginning rough animation of a sack drop. Watch it a few times to see if you can feel the sack hitting the floor with an impact.

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Did you feel the sack slowly moving into the fall and then bam! A few things are happening here which are not giving us that performance. A lot of the drawings, epecially around the fall are spaced
evenly apart and are shot on 4s or 5s. These two factors are robbing us of the sack impacting the ground moment. Its slowed down as if the sack is falling into a pool of water.This type of shooting is fine for getting the timing right before adding the inbetween drawings, but if the drawings spacing are not correct, you will see it even in this rough pose test.

To correct this, the entire animation should be shot on 2s. Holding the first pose allows the audience time to take in the scene. An ease in should be added as the sack slumps forward, from small spacing, to larger until it begins the fall. Again, there is an Ease in here too, however the distance increases very quickly. 

To get that impact moment, the last falling sack drawing should be a little farther away from the sack on the ground. In the test above, half the sack is on the ground and the top of the sack up in the air and the next drawing the sack is on the ground. Its slowing down to land not hitting hard. Taking out this half away drawing will help the previous drawing go from in the air to slamming on the ground. 

Here's a bunch of Sack drops from the class.
 

Drawing Advice

When you begin drawing, draw shapes, not beautiful clean lines. So many people begin drawing with their sleek mechanical pencils, making each drawing as detailed and precise as a stain glass window. Then when they see the drawings in motion, they wonder why their animation moves so stiff and without energy.

Using a solid pencil and drawing rough solves this problem, the right side of the Brain is kicks in and you are figuring out the motion instead of the details. Forget that eraser my friend, this is rough animation territory! You make a bad drawing, just toss it to the side and get another sheet. You need to get your mind focused on drawing the motion.

I've also found you can draw rough with a blue and then revise the drawing with a regular lead. Something about drawing with a colored pencil tricks my brain and I concentrate on the shape or action or pose that I'm trying to figure out. Try it yourself, I loved to find out the results.

Once you have two key drawing, maybe an inbetween, flip those drawings and see if  the main shapes are moving? Forget the details for now, the main parts have to look right. Get them down on paper, flip through them, repeat, shoot a pencil test with added frames for the missing inbetweens to get a better sense of the timing. Nobody is going to see these roughs and judge you, you will clean them up later, after the animation is moving the way you want it to.

In summary, drawing animation is a lot of work, but if you enjoy bringing your drawings to life, you will learn a lot with the practice. If you draw some action and flipping the drawings is too difficult to do or see the motion. Shoot a pencil test and then look at the results at real time and frame by frame. Make changes, take notes and fill out that lonely Xsheet with a pencil so you get the right timing.

Also you can read all about this process in other books and blogs, however to get better at, you just have to start drawing, make mistakes, learn from them, make more and keep going. It takes time and practice, but it does pay off in the end sooner or later.

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