Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The McGurk Effect

This is a very interesting effect...

When you are breaking down a dialogue soundtrack into frames, you learn right away that you don't have to put every mouth position for every frame of sound. What happens is similar to the effect above, you see the mouth switching into different positions almost too quickly especially if each frame is a different mouth. Its ok to have each mouth on two frames instead of one, because you will see the mouth before you hear the sound. Too delayed or shown too soon and the mouth will look out of sync with the sound.

I took the above soundtrack to see if switching a B mouth between a F mouth would have the same effect in animation.Watch the clip below and let me know how many Bahs you see compared to Fahs.

McGurk effect from Toondini on Vimeo.

Here's another example of the McGurk effect...

Friday, October 18, 2013

EFX Animation: Water Splash

Walt Disney Studios pioneered drawn animation effects by having a team of animators study how water moves and reacts as well as fire, smoke, rain, etc. These animators soon became known as "Effects Animators" specializing in environmental effects, so the character animators could concentrate on  characters performance.

When adding an effect to your scene, you want to make sure the effect or effects are on seperate levels. This will help in case you need to shoot it on 1s, while your character(s) are being shot on 2s. You also want your character animation to be as final as possible, because the effects may have to register or line up to some part of your character or background. Example, your character's hair is on fire. You've got him jumping around and the fire effect must look as if its on top of his head.

One effect that I think I have figured out how to explain is the water splash. In this example, we are dealing with an object that falls straight down into a pool of water. The water splash reacts to the size, weight and at what angle the object enters the water, but for this demo, the angle of entry is straight down.

Begin with a simple layout showing the bottom oval where the splash begins from and draw action lines which go up and curve over. As the splash goes up, the water curves over because gravity is pushing it back down and also the water curve is moving outward. The water curves up and out, not just going up and the down. Keep your water drawings curving outward, follow the red lines as a guide.

You need to create a few main keys to get the motion looking right at beginning. Deal with the shape of the splash which travels upward and outward as it travels back down to the water surface below. As the water returns, it makes more micro splashes and this is where most character animators want to stop and draw something else because of some many details to keep moving.

Here's a splash shown frame by frame with timing notes...


Water keeps moving and moving and slowly, slows down as it returns to normal again. Water never freezes, unless it becomes ice. The tedious part is trying to make all these bits look like moving fluid and all moving at different speeds. The ending of the splash is often ignored, because it is a lot of attention to detail to make it look right. My sample below is a good start, but my ending could be fixed up a bit as well. My splash ends with water splashes and changes to a rough ripple cycle to keep the water moving and returning to normal.


Watch these examples of splashes. This one feels more heavy like mud and notice how everything moves at the same time and ends at the same time. Water moves a different speeds.

This one looks pretty good, but the ending is a little rushed into a ripple cycle...

This one has the water going up and down, no outward motion and the second water blob. If the water splash moved outward in the beginning, I think this would work better.

Good animation. Can you spot the problem with this one?

Great Animation, a little too long on the splash shape which looks as if more water is pouring out.

All these examples of splash took a lot of time and effort to figure out and draw. It takes time, perhaps a lifetime to master these techniques. The main thing is to learn how to do it yourself and develop your animation eye. Work on a scene, test the scene, review the scene, revise the scene, reshoot the scene, ask others opinion and this should be for computer animators as well. The more you do, the better you'll get.

There are basic examples of effects in almost any drawing animation book you pick up and they are good guides for simplifying these types of animation. I found two books that I'm very interested in looking through called Elemental Magic, Volume 1: The Art of Special Effects animation and Elemental Magic, Volume 2: The Technique of Special Effects animation by Joseph Gilland. If anyone has these books and would like to tell us about them, I'd love to find out more.

Please give me some advice, feedback or constructive criticism or share your animation so we can all learn something new! Don't be shy, leave a comment below!
Thanks in Advance,

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Jump and the Take

As a kid, this was my first source for learning how to draw animated walks, runs, jump, etc, was from Preston Blair's Animation book. He wrote this book awhile ago, but its full of great insight into cartoon animation.

The Jump 

Here's a rough animated jump I learned from Richard Williams book which is more of a realistic character jump.  As I was figuring out the jump, I notice a few things. One is that the character's head moves in a similar way when a ball goes up, arcs over and falls back down and there's a lot of squash and stretch in the poses.


The line of action is an imaginary line which goes from the neck, down the spine and to the legs to define the pose of a character and its attitude. Animators often will rough in this line first to keep the attitude or action of a strong pose. Below is the same jump but I've added a red line of action.


When you are figure out your Key poses, you will often draw this line to make sure your character is moving the right way from pose to pose. Here's the jump, one more time, showing just the line of action. Even without the details you can still see the same motion.


The Take

As you can see, my character has landed to the far right side of the screen in the establishing shot. I have now changed my framing to a Close Up in order to see what he thinks. To set up the next shot, I animated this guy to do a "take". The cartoon take is in almost every cartoon, however is lacking in modern animated tv series like "Family Guy". The king of the cartoon take in my opinion is Tex Avery and if you don't know his works, click here to see a classic.

Take a look at this take and see what you think? Anything look odd to you?


The above video has a mistake in the animation. Can you spot the problem?  I know its rough.
Add your comments! I know people are looking at this blog from all over for some reason. Please let me know you exist, is the comment button working at all?

Thank you!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Early 2D Computer film

I saw this film at an early age and it kinda freaked me out. I remember hearing that the animator used a computer to do the inbetweening process. This film took a year and a half to make and came out around 1974. Later, when I would hear about animation done on a computer, this film would always pop into my head and the bad feeling would return.

Since Halloween is just around the corner, please enjoy "Hunger".

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.

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.


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.

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.


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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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Project 5: Layout, Timing Action and Research

You need to put a little more thought into this project -- more than the bouncing ball or floating balloon or bubble. With your best thumbnail drawings by your side and bunch of blank animation bond on the other, its time to start figuring out how to layout your animation. This entire scene should be done in one shot, so we can concentrate on the action of the sack falling and hitting the ground. You can also add another obstacle below, so the sack hits it first and then flops onto the floor and comes to a stop.

Begin with your field guide to determine your camera view. Design a simple background of the location and figure out where the sack positions are going to be.

Instead of a simple flat drawing like this..

Create a background using perspective and dimension. Below is a rough drawing where the sack is sitting on the counter and on the floor below is a small stepstool. I want the sack to hit the stool before hitting the floor. The red line represents where the main action will be, so you will want your background details to be minimal and not interfere with the animation drawings.
Using the background image above as an example, you will want to make a layout drawing of only the main positions of the sack. To keep it simple, let's ignore the stepstool for a moment. Position 1 would be the sack sitting on the counter, Position 2 would be the beginning of the fall, Position 3 would be the sack's first contact with the floor and Position 4 would be the final end pose of the bag. Those would be your initial key layout drawings.

Now its all about timing out how many frames each action should take to do in seconds. The best way of timing out anything is to take a sto watch and act out the action in seconds. You will be able to figure out any staging problems that might occur and you will be getting the scene in your head as well. Do this a few times to get an average and then you can convert the seconds into frames.

Remember, it depends at what frame rate your camera is shooting at. The standard would be 24fps (frames per second), but sometimes it could be 30fps or some other frame rate. For this example, let's use 24fps and begin with the sack sitting on the table. I always tell my students to delay the beginning of the scene by holding on the background for at least 16 frames. This short amount of time gives your audience mental preparation to watch something animated. If you just start the action right away, your audience might not see the beginning of your animation and would be trying to figure out what they were watching.

Beginning with the sack sitting on the counter, you need enough time to show where we are and what's in the scene. Staging is very important here -- you don't want your audience to question what they are watching. So it's OK to hold on this still image for 3 or 4 seconds, or maybe longer.

Convert your timing into frames.  Let's say the establishing shot is 4 seconds. 24fps x 4 = 96 frames. Put that down on your exposure sheet (Fr 1 to 96) and remember this is only one drawing held for 96 frames. Next; the sack sits and slowly tilts forward, speeding up to begin the fall. 3 seconds converted to frames: 24fps x 3 = 72 frames and 96 + 72 = 168 frames in screen time. But since we are shooting on 2s, we have to draw only about 37 drawings. 1 drawing for 96 frames and the tilting forward into the fall equaling 36 drawings.

When the sack falls, it can fall straight down or flip over during the fall. You may want to find a similar object to study how it falls and hits the ground or another object. You can even shoot it on your phone to see how long the process takes. Shooting reference footage is a great way to study how things move and apply it to your animation. If you have the technology, use it.

Here's my reference footage of the sack falling in different ways.


This sack contains sand which is heavier than flour or rice. When pushing it over, the contents inside begin moving. The bottom is still as the contents shift their weight forward causing the top of the sack to slump forward at the beginning of the fall. When the sack falls and hit the ground, it doesn't suddenly freeze to a stop. If we could watch the video at a slower speed, you would see the main weight of the sack hitting and the rest of the sack slightly delayed in coming to a stop. This would cause a slight movement to the sack after it landed on the ground. This type of movement in animation is called Recoil and occurs as an after-effect of an abrupt stop, the lighter parts of the sack go past final pose and the then settle back to stop. If you can watch a video frame by frame, you will see a lot of changes like this which you can't see in real time.

Now a sack of flour can sit on a counter for days if not decades without being disturbed, so you should figure out a simple way to motivate the sack into its fall. I animated a bowling ball rolling in, which pushes the sack to the edge of the counter to start its fall. For added pleasure, I kept the bowling ball moving very slowly forward until it too falls off the counter and hits the sack on the floor.

Here's the rough animation of my project so far.

Animated Thoughts
I 'm still thinking about how the bowling ball would react when hitting the sack on the floor. Would it bounce off since a sack of flour is pretty hard? If it bounces, where does it go? Does it bounce and roll off the sack, continuing off screen? Animators ponder thoughts like these all the time.  Even at 3:00 in the morning we are working on them, thinking about how to solve a problem. We want our animation to make sense to our audience while its entertaining or educating them.

Sometimes you have to test out things in the real world when animating realistic objects. I had thought that the bowling ball would hit the sack and bounce or roll off in some kind of way. To test my theory, I dropped a real bowling ball onto the sack at different heights and discovered the sack absorbed the impact of the ball like a pillow, causing the ball to stay in one place.

Here's a link to an in depth explanation about timing.

Next up: Animating the Sack Drop.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Truth about the Bottom of Page 83

While growing up in Florida, I began making Super 8 movies and Monty Python inspired animations in high school. At the time, my Mom was working as a commercial artist for a small company that produced multimedia slideshows. They used multiple slide projectors -- about 9 of them -- for corporate and trade show presentations and wanted to do limited animation using this format.

They bought a few books about animation as well as some equipment like an animation disc and some cel paint. Mom wasn't sure what to do and didn't understand where to bring the whole animation process.  I would meet her at work after school and I'd quietly study this hardcover animation book called "The Animated Raggedy Ann and Andy" by John Canemaker. This book gave me a glimpse into how an animated film was made and featured the animator/director Richard Williams.

Many years later while in Chicago, I stumbled upon a large book sale in a mall parking lot. Tons of tables were filled with books of all kinds.  No organization -- just books, books and more books. As if I were attached to an invisible cable, I saw an old familiar friend at the very first table I walked up to. There it was, on top of a pile of other books -- my favorite hardcover animation book from long ago. I couldn't believe my luck and even though there was some slight water damage, all the pages were intact. I couldn't believe they wanted only $2 for it.  It was even signed by John Canemaker!

I bought the book right away and took it home to look through it again. Another surprise was revealed when I opened the book to page 238. Under the photo of three of Disney's nine old men -- Ollie Johnston, Eric Larsen and Frank Thomas -- were two of their signatures. My $2 investment had really paid off.

More time passed and, while working at Will Vinton Studios, I got an opportunity to meet Richard Williams. Will had invited him to speak to the studio's stop motion and CG animators.  Around 1995, Vinton had begun producing the first CG animated M&M commercials and Williams had begun giving a masterclass based on a book he was then writing, "The Animator's Survival Kit".

Will Vinton threw a dinner party in his honor the night before the weekend class. Several animators knew Williams did "Roger Rabbit," but I was a little fan struck.  I mean, here's a guy I read about as a kid! I remembered "The Pink Panther" title sequences and I really think Williams and John Canemaker's book opened the animation door for me.

So I was the only person at the party carrying my book around. I finally got to meet Williams and he was just as nice as could be. I told him about the history of the book I was carrying and showed him the signatures.  He then added his as well.

He mentioned he was writing an animation book which would be out in a few years. I told him about my 2D background and asked him if he ever thought about doing any computer animation. He laughed and shook his head, " No, I think I finally figured out drawing animation part, but I don't think I could learn computer animation now." I told him how the first few weeks of learning to use the computer instead of pencil and paper was really difficult for me. I told him that it felt like I was animating with a microwave. The model is in the box and you have to make it move using a keyboard and a mouse.

Williams exploded with laughter and grabbed a little pad of paper. "That's great!  Yes, animating with a microwave! That's funny.  Yes, I'm putting that in the book."

And so, when "The Animator's Survival Kit" book came out, I brought my copy to DreamWorks where Williams was speaking to a large group of animators and animation fans.  He remembered me from Vinton and gladly signed my book.

So now you know the story of the bottom of page 83.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Project 5: The Sack Drop

The Flour Sack was a popular as an animation test at the Disney studio in the 1930s because it was more organic in movement than a bouncing ball, focusing more attention to weight, overlapping action and how the sack changes shape over time. Its also forces you to think about timing and how to make this object move realistically in animation.

This project will be a little more interesting than animating different types of ball bounces, however you will find yourself using the same animation principles thru out. Your task is to animate a sack of flour or grain sitting on a shelf, table, etc and falling off of it. The sack can fall by itself or maybe something that gives it a push to get it started.

Here are a few examples of a Sack falling down and hitting the floor.

As you can see, you can have it fall down in a number of ways, but for this assignment, its just a fall and reaction. There are no details like a face, no arms or legs to worry about. Its just a simple sack shape which you have to figure out how to animate.

Here are few Flour Sack animations dealing with more motion and emotion.

For this exercise, You need to put a little more thought into this project than a bouncing ball or floating balloon. This project requires you to animate a sack of flour which falls and react when it hits the floor. You can start your animation with the sack sitting there quietly and then slowly slumps into its fall. Or you can come up with a simple clever way of motivating the sack into motion. Think of all the possiblites and pick one that you like.

I would suggest making thumbnail drawings of your main actions to create a rough storyboard before you begin animating. This will help you figure out the framing, the background layout and give you a rough idea of what you will need to animate. You can also show it to others to get their feedback before you begin. All of the action will happen in one shot, no cut away or camera moves.

You will need to practice drawing your Sack character to figure out what kind of shapes and different poses help tell the story visually. It also allows you to learn how to draw the character before you are drawing the animation. Feel free to see what other people have done, perhaps this will give you some simpler ideas.
Here's a simple way to draw a sack using 2 different sized ovals and adding some lines around the shape. Remember, we are going to be animating a shape made of lines.
 PART 2: Layout and Animating

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