Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy 2015!

Wow, its a New Year already and I can't believe there have been 4323 visitors to this site over the past 2 years from all over the US and the world. Hopefully, you found something of interest here and will feel free to send a comment now and then.

Last year, I attempted to document a small freelance job which I thought I was going to be working on. Unfortunately, this project fell through, which happens a lot in animation, but It looks like I have another project I can document in the new year.

Rockademix is a really cool educational program for teachers to help kids learn different subjects using music and dance. I will be animating a 2 minute promo to explain this concept to interested educators. So, join me in 2015, as I take a storyboard and a narration track and go from pre-production to final animation in making this explainer video. It should be a fun little project which we both will learn from.

Happy New Year 2015! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

WatchCat Up and Out there!

Hey Cats and Kittens,

Wanted to let you know that WatchCat, a project that I have been working on, is finally out on Youtube. I wanted to let all my European, Asian, Polish, Indian, Eskimo, Russian and even a few Down Under Cats, just to name a few, know to give us a paw up and let us know what you think.

I'll be teaching animation production again in the new year as well as working on episode 2 of my Watchcat project. I'm wondering if anyone had any animation subjects they would like me to cover in upcoming blog posts? I have been taking a look at Famous Felines of Animation, starting with Krazy Kat and wandering through early animation cat characters, cats from literature and going up to modern day cartoon cats. If you would like to see what I recently found out about Felix the Cat, check out the WatchCat Files.

Our New Year's Resolution is to make at least two more episodes to see if you dig what we're doing. And if you are into it as much as we hope you are, please subscribe to our WatchCat Films YouTube channel

Have a Happy Holiday and a Great New Year!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Animation Backgrounds

Beginning animation students tend to stage their shots as if you were watching their characters on a stage from the back row. The character enters in profile from the left and walks to the center of the field of view. This is usually all done in one establishing long shot. We then cut to a front view, usually a closer shot to see the character looking or reacting to something. Then we cut back to the same profile long shot as before. 

There is a lot of this Side,front, Side type of cutting, because its easier to animate a 2D character in profile than it is in a 3/4 view or in perspective. I try to have my students start with the profile walk in, but then have them cut to a 3/4 view and not to return to the same profile long shot again if they can help it.

While working on my own short, I discovered that I needed help with making backgrounds since I tend to prefer a simple white background, so I didn't have to deal with making one. This type of non-background can be seen here from a short I did years ago.

The best way to become an animation background artist is to study old cartoons to see how the backgrounds were made . I found an excellent blog source for animation backgrounds by Rob Richards' called simply, Animation Backgrounds. Rob has selected still frames and removed the animated character to show only the backgrounds making it easier to study the framing, the tones, the lighting and all those other details.

Here's an interesting and very dynamic view from The Alley Cat (1941), where our hero is trying to impress a feline in a window ledge high above. This is a vertical image with a background pan from left to right as the cat dances on the fence and the girl cat above is also moving in a simple dance cycle. When I first found this image, I thought the background artist had added a still pose of the girl cat. If you scroll down, you will see the original cartoon this shot came from.

But first, let's take a look at how perspective lines and shapes help direction our attention to what is important in this scene. Beginning with vertical lines from the fence, up the building and to the sky.

Next, we have angled horizontal lines, showing a second vanishing point from screen right. Together both vertical and horizontal lines create a frame around the cat in the window above.
Also, The girl cat is in the top one third area, while our dancing Tom is in the one third area to the left. All this makes for a nice composition.

The Background Artist also has created a spotlight of light effect to draw our attention to the tiny character above to make sure we see it. Notice all the lines of window frames and other shapes also are used to point towards the same small character.

Even our hero has an eyeline aimed up at the other cat to help the audience notice the other character and to show how far apart they are not just in social class, but in physical distance.

And then there are all the other details. The closer the object, the more detailed and in focus, but the farther away, the color gets lighter in tone and the details are thrown more out of focus.

And so, start collecting interesting background images and add them to your reference file. This comes in handy when you are trying to create a background for your next project. If you have any background tips, please forward them to me. 

Until next time, enjoy this classic MGM cartoon and then study it by watching it again without the sound. And be careful, you might learn something new...