Thursday, August 31, 2017

Organizing your Animation work: Part 3

Exposure Sheets

When working in traditional animation, Animators needed to use an exposure sheet to
figure out the timing of the scene, dialogue information, the camera's field of view and camera movement such as a pan or zoom. They can also indicate scene transitions like Fades or Dissolves.

Why are Exposure or X sheets so important? These are the sheets where you figure out the best timing for your animation. You will be generating a lot of drawings and need to label them so if they dropped all over the floor, you how to put them back in the correct order before you had to shoot or scan them.

The exposure sheets were also filled out so the cameraman knew which drawings were needed for each individual frame. This sheet was filled out so accurately that it soon became known as a "Dope sheet" in that any idiot could understand how to shoot the animation by looking at the instructions on the sheet. Today, you can still find an updated version of the "Dope sheet" in Maya software.

These are the tools the audience will never know about, but will see the result of.

How to read and write Exposure Sheets

Think of the exposure sheet as a Table of Animation Contents which shows how everything fits together to make up an animated scene. Here is an exposure sheet with dialogue notes on the side, each column is a different layer or level of animation, which all fits together to make one final image.

No, your eyes aren't going bad, I will replace the below image with a better one soon.

Parts of an Exposure Sheet

Each line represents a single frame.

ACTION: might be blank is the area on the sheet where you label what is going on in the scene. Example: Frame 30: Guy walks  in from Stage Left. Frame 60: Guy stops to look at Hole on floor... Hold pose for 10 frames. Frame 70: Anticipates Jump Frame 75: Leaps over hole. Frame 83: Lands, Frame 89; Into standing pose, etc.

CAMERA: This is the Camera info, if the camera is stationary, you will mark down what field of view or FIELD (Fld) the camera is at. 12 to 9 Fld could be a wide or Establishing shot, where smaller Fields are for Medium and Close Up shots.

DIAL or SOUND: This is where the dialogue is broken down into frames or if its Narration, the first frame of each word is labelled. You need to know if your sound was recorded at 24 or 30 fps and then keep everything at the same frame rate.

Columns 1 thru 5: These are the different layers or levels you can use to make up a complete image. 1 is the first layer above the Background layer.

BG: is the Background Layer

EX: is an extra layer if needed.


When you begin the animation process, you need to know if you will be animating at 24 fps or 30 fps. Whichever frame rate you start with, you need to keep it throughout the entire project.

When you begin animating on paper, you need to put the information onto your exposure sheet using a PENCIL. Never use a pen, because any changes would mean rewriting all the information onto new exposure sheets. Its very easy to label your frames twice or miss a number altogether.

Label your Exposure sheet based on your timing. You don't have to label each line or frame. If there are numbers on the sheets, only label every 10th line. If you have an action that needs to start or end of a certain frame, circle that frame to make it special.

Some sheets look like this...       Just add the tenth frame as so....

1                                                          1
2                                                          2
3                                                          3
4                                                          4
5                                                          5
6                                                          6
7                                                          7
8                                                          8
9                                                          9
0                                                        10
1                                                          1
2                                                          2
3                                                          3
4                                                          4
5                                                          5
6                                                          6
7                                                          7
8                                                          8
9                                                          9
0                                                        20

And so on...

If you are animating to a sound file either for Narration or Lip Sync. You should fill out the X sheets first and then use it as you draw your animation drawings. Each word in 
can be written out to show at what frame the word begins on. 

With Lip Sync sound, you will have to breakdown each word into frames which will require you to "Scrub" your sound track. This process is called "Reading a Soundtrack"

The word "I" can be broken down into two sounds depending how the word was said on the track. "I" could be noted as "Ah" and then "Yee".


Begin by filling out your KEY POSE drawings first and Circle the Key drawings and do not circle your inbetweens. KEYS are circled so you know they are Key poses. Some people will circle all the drawings, but this doesn't help your inbetweener to find the Key Poses.

More to come soon.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

An Adventure in Advertising!

I thought I would walk you through the production process of a McDonald's commercial that I worked on at Leo Burnett USA, after graduating from Columbia College in Chicago.

Here's a copy of the finished Halloween Pails :15 spot I worked on.

I remember knowing about the McDonald's Halloween Happy Meal pails back when I was in High School and later in life, my first commercial assignment was to come up with a :15 spot to sell them to the public in a clever way. In this spot, we also had to stress the "Glow in the Dark" ghost happy meal pail as well as other things in the :15 second spot.

Here's the brief for the spot...

In 1989, a :15 closing spot featured a cute Bat puppet who flies through the scene and tells you about the products was made. Here is the photo storyboard of the finished spot and the only thing I could find that exists that shows how the finished spot turned out.
I first got the assignment back early June in 1990, where my Creative Director, Joe DeVivo introduced me to the assignment and paired me up with a young copywriter named John Wilson. Our task was to come up with several ideas for the :15 spot and then pitch them to Joe in a week or two. I forgot what other ideas we had came up with, maybe another one using the same Bat puppet.

After the pitch, it was determined that the Happy Meal characters scaring each other would be the best idea to board up officially. Now again, this was a while ago, so there might have been a few other ideas that we pitched to our group for feedback and revisions. And to save you all the back and forth time revising the boards, I will skip to the point where we pitched the final board in the agency and got a green light. 

The Agency reviews all their work internally before pitching the ideas to McDonald's. There were several other boards taken out to the client and the ones that were sold were given the green light to produce them into final TV spots. 

Here was the production timetable.

Review 1 : 7/6
Review 2 Storyboards 7/13
Review 2 Storyboards 7/20
Bid:    7/23
Pre-Pro  9/13
Shoot     9/18 - 19
Edit        9/21 & 9/24
Ship: "Boo" 9/28

Here are the final boards that were pitched and sold. The Happy Meal characters are in Halloween costumes and are jumping out of different pails. In the end, the all pop out of the middle pail and the Happy Meal logo, also known as a bug, animates and scares the characters back into the pail.

When the boards were sold and producer was brought on to go over all the details that we had to shoot. As this process went forward, I discovered a whole new world called "Legal" which I never knew existed. This is were all the legal issues pop up and must be addressed or else the commercial you are shooting might not be allowed on the TV networks.
I also had to come up with the exact costumes the characters would wear and only had the McDonald's brand and then all the details to help someone create the costumes...
While I was doing the art direction for the spot, John was timing out his dialogue, finalizing the script and production notes. During this process, we discovered that we had to have less then 8 seconds of the puppets on the screen. Legal determined that viewers would assume that the puppets would come with the pails since they are on the screen at the same time.
Also the "Glow in the Dark" had to glow in the dark on the film. Back then, all commercials were shot on film and transferred and edited onto videotape. No cameras at that time could shoot the "Glowing" pail without UV lighting. Legal demanded to see the "glow in the dark" shot and then would approved the glowing enhancement later on.
The production notes were given to the network lawyers to review and then they gave us notes if something wasn't allowed or was missing.

This was sent out with the storyboards to studios for the bidding process.

Other legal issues popped up! There might be a problem with the McDonald's Happy Meal bug animating to react with puppet characters on set. Legal then said, Animation characters pitching products is not allowed. What?! The Leo Burnett lawyers sent dozens of animated spots featuring animated characters pitching products. What is animation? Are the puppets considered animation? The bug would be an animation character. 

BTW, the Happy Meal box logo was never animated before, here's one from 1996, after my spot.

I also pushed a local animation company called "Calabash Animation" to be considered for bidding on the McD bug logo. The Producer, who had years more experience than me, wanted to give the job their usual LA studios and didn't want me to give Calabash the job. Calabash was just starting out, but could easily handle the animation of the logo since I had worked with them in the past. The Producer finally gave them the job, but told me if anything screwed up, it was on my head. So much for helping out local studios.
I got to fly with a group of Burnett pros to LA for the 2 day shoot. They shot the "Glow in the Dark" in natural lighting for legal and we even had the spooky fog on the set. There was a lot of popping out the puppets and popping them back into the pail as fast as possible. It was a long day of shooting but everything worked.

Calabash did several pencil tests and the animation was approved. The logo was cel painted and the final version was added to the edit of the spot. The editor was able to remove frames to speed up the cut and keep everything under the time limit.

Finally when it was all done and the final spot was sent to Legal and the networks for final approval. To our surprise, one ABC executive came back from a bad lunch experience and would not approve the spot. The brief mentioned "spooky fog" and he thought it was more "mystical fog" than spooky. The legal team of Leo Burnett were once again on the phone and finally the executive agreed and gave his final approval.

So there you have it. I've had this items in a box for years waiting for a way to tell the tale of my first adventure in advertising. I hope you learned something from this and as always would appreciate any comments or feedback. Unless you're that same ABC executive.