Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Instruction: Animation Reference


Muybridge – Horse Gallop

Today I’m going to be showing everyone my planning process for using photographic reference to plan and execute a naturalistic horse run cycle. This process has been used by generations of artists to help analyse and capture the motion patterns of real-world objects and creatures. This type of study is invaluable for building an internal “motion library” in your mind, so that when you have to make guesses about how something impossible might move, those guesses can be as educated as possible. For the beginning animator, doing motion analysis can also help give a stronger sense of what motion details matter, and which are best to remove to get an optimal stylistic motion.

First up, here is the finished animation: Horse_gallop

In a complex cycle like a horse gallop, there are many things to understand, and without experience animating similar creatures it would be difficult to plan ahead for this animation considering that we have so much to keep track of.

Get Video Reference

If you can film your own reference, then that’s a great first step, but if you can’t, the first place I search is the BBC Motion Library at Getty Images. This collection has thousands of real-time and slow-motion shots of sports, nature, vehicles, and much more. It’s free to view and download, which is ideal as we will need to carefully go through our shot frame by frame in order to analyse it.

Here is the shot I used for reference. As stated above, it’s free to download (non-commercial use of course) by right clicking the clip and choosing Save as.

A few notes about the shot:

  • It is playing in real-time, not slow motion, so we can use it for timing information
  • The shot isn’t stabilized, so we can’t use it to track body parts necessarily
  • The whole body is visible, including the feet as they touch the ground
  • The speed of the run is relatively stable for a few seconds, ideal for a cycle

Use A Frame by Frame Video Software

Next we need to be able to see each frame of the video one at a time. You can do this by importing the footage into any video editing software if you  have it. I prefer to use a much simpler method by opening it in QuickTime.


QuickTime interface

To my knowledge, QuickTime is the only freely available video software which allows you to step through a video one frame at a time (using the left and right arrow keys). Many others allow you to skip several frames, but none that I’ve found allow this level of precision. Another benefit of this software shown above, is the ability to switch the timecode to frames, so we can easily count and locate keyframes in our action.

Before using the shot for any timing information, you’ll need to know the frame rate of the video. I figure this out by going to 1 second in the timecode, the switching to frames to see how many have elapsed. This shot is in a standard 25fps for european PAL broadcast. This will effect our conversion to our frame rate. In my case, I’ll be animating at 24fps (see the conversion math later on at the bottom of my Xsheet).

Get Additional Reference

Although we could use a single source of reference, it’s better to have several similar sources to draw from, and the plates from Edward Muybridge’s animal studies have been a source of inspiration to animators for a century. We have an extensive library of Muybridge here. These images (shown at top) are invaluable because they show a flat sideways perspective of a horse galloping with extracted frames to display the entire cycle of motion. The only problem with this is that we don’t know how fast it should be moving, a problem we’ve already addressed with our video reference.

Here is a playback of the muybridge_horse set to a realistic 40fps.

By comparing the frames to our video, I determined that the approximate speed of the original Muybridge shot was a brisk 40fps. I also adjusted the frames to stabilize the ground, put vertical and horizontal lines in to help track key parts of the body, and finally tracked each hoof with a colored ball. All of this information provides almost everything we need to put together our plan.

Horse Gaits

basicsGaitsGallopR or basicsGaitsGallopL

The last bit of information we need is an understanding of the pattern we hope to find and reproduce. This information I found easily on an equestrian website, along with footfall patterns of all the primary horse locomotion speeds.


Path of feet shown in color code through cycle duration.

Record Observations and Refine

Finally we are ready to utilize all of this information into a formal plan for animating our horse. By stepping through the video and referring to the Muybridge plates, I record all of the pertinent information I can onto an Xsheet.


Modified Xsheet for planning CG animation

By examining the sheet above, you can see that I’ve sought out the most important aspects of the motion and spaced them out in time so that they flow fluidly. Here is a list of the things you should look for before continuing:

  • Key Frames – These should be the most informational single images for the action, without which, none of the remaining actions can possibly hope to illustrate the action properly. In my case, I chose the Squashed mid-air position, and the Stretched leaping position of the horse.
  • Extremes -The foot contacts must all be present, as well as the maximum and minimum vertical positions of the chest and flank.
  • Breakdowns – Wherever necessary, plan for the passing or half-way positions of body parts and poses, so you do not miss the nuance of the motion pattern.
  • Small patterns– Note the path and notes about the head, these patterns are important and shouldn’t be missed. Make notes of any details you might easily forget later.

For one reason or another, the use of Xsheets has never fully translated over to computer animation, which I think is a major loss. Although these sheets were originally used to plan for the exposure of cell levels in traditional animation, they can find a valuable second life in helping to plan body part motions and musical timing.

Execute Plan

With all of this preparatory work, the only thing left to do is to use this roadmap to complete your animation. By this point, you should have such a solid idea of what your animation is going to look like, that the actual work of animation is almost an afterthought. In The Illusion of Life, as well as The Animator’s Survival Kit, the authors tell stories of their lengthy and strenuous planning procedures, and how once planned out, an animation scene was practically complete before pencil ever touched page. This method allows you to keep a solid focus on your scene even between work sessions, and frees you to focus on the details without becoming lost in the larger patterns of motion.



Taber Dunipace
Director of Membership


Monday, May 18th, 2015

Exhibit: The Zim Course in Cartooning, Comic Art and Caricature Vol 2

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Animation Resources is proud to present exclusively to our membership the first of four volumes of Eugene Zimmerman’s landmark correspondence course in cartooning as a 200 page high resolution e-book. Members, to download a copy, login to the Members Only Download Page. This download will only be available during the months of May and June 2015 and might never be available again.

If you have not joined Animation Resources yet, see the Membership Signup Page. Over the next year, Animation Resources members will be receiving the entire Zim course, consisting of four volumes and nearly 1000 pages packed with incredible drawings and creative advice!

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

A couple of years ago ago, I stumbled across a "how to" book on cartooning by Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman. It was titled Zim’s Cartoons & Caricatures, Or Making The World Laugh. I happened to be speaking on the phone to Ralph Bakshi, and I mentioned the book. "Ooooohh! So you’ve discovered ZIM now! He’s one of my secrets…"

In 1967, right after he had resigned as the head of the Paramount cartoon studio, Ralph and his wife Liz were walking through Brooklyn when they saw a sign on an old house advertising an estate sale. They went inside, but it was late in the day and there wasn’t much left. Ralph glanced up at a tall bookcase and saw a pile of pamphlets stacked up on a high shelf. It was too high to reach, so he didn’t bother to look at them. As they were walking out the door, he got the feeling that he needed to go back and look at the pamphlets. It was a good hunch. The stack contained a nearly complete set of Zim’s correspondence course in cartooning. He asked the estate agent how much they cost, and was told $50. That was more than he and his wife had in their pockets, so Liz volunteered to run home and get the money. The Zim books were on his desk every day throughout the production of Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic and especially Coonskin. This set is Ralph’s most prized possession, and now he is sharing them with Animation Resources.

The Zim Book on Cartooning

Zim’s correspondence course was the most highly regarded cartooning course of its day. Spanning 20 volumes, it covered a wide range of subjects, from practical homespun advice to lofty philosophy. Here are some examples of Zim’s genius from the pages of the four volumes we completed digitizing today…

The course was published in two different editions… 1914 and 1920. We have been able to find an earlier edition of the course to supplement and complete Ralph Bakshi’s set. There are no chapters or specific assignments. The books consist of page after page of individual nuggets of wisdom. Each book and each page stands on its own.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course
The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Ralph also helped Animation Resources obtain vintage copies of the magazine Judge’s Library containing dozens of full page color examples of Zim’s work. These have been included in our exclusive online e-books.

Zim’s course is much more than just a "how to draw" course. In short anecdotal paragraphs, Zim succeeds in conveying what it means to be a cartoonist… the history behind the artform… how to deal with everyday problems and setbacks… and how to live the life of an artist.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Zim was the founder of the "grotesque" school of caricature, which formed the basis of what we now call "cartoony drawing". He provides lots of examples of caricatures drawn from life, with photos of his subjects alongside his caricature of the person.

There’s plenty of traditional drawing lessons too. Zim’s masterful expressive line fills every page with perfect examples of the principles he is discussing.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course
The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The book is full of amusing observation. Just look at the shoes and the way the clothing hangs on these bums. Zim is able to pack personality into every detail of the character.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

If you aren’t convinced yet that Zim is a drop dead genius, just click on this image!

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The most impressive illustrations in the course are the examples of Zim’s rough sketches. He had an uncanny knack for being able to express every nuance of his subject with a free flowing and loose pencil technique.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

He was capable of extreme exaggeration that captured the essence of the unique qualities of the personalities he chose to caricature.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

But the most amazing thing about Zim’s artistry was his ability to draw the viewer into his world and make them feel the way the characters in the drawings feel. Wouldn’t you love to live in a cartoony world like this? You can, and Zim can teach you to THINK like a cartoonist.


Visit the Members Only Page to access the download link for this e-book.


Every two months, Animation Resources provides a downloadable Reference Pack for its membership. The Reference Packs consist of a PDF e-book set up to be viewed in high resolution on computers and mobile devices, or printed out in hard copy on a laser printer. Also included are two animated films in full DVD quality. The material in these bi-monthly Reference Packs have been selected and curated by the Advisory Board and Officers of Animation Resources. The RefPacks are available for a limited time only, and may never be made available again.

If you are interested in joining Animation Resources and receiving this as a high resolution PDF e-book, please see our Membership Sign Up Page for all of the details.

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources

Eugene Zim ZimmermanEugene Zim Zimmerman

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit devoted to Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman.

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Instruction: Willard Mullin on Animals

Willard Mullin

FA BindersFA BindersA couple of months ago, we posted a section of the Famous Artists Illustration Course… Chad’s Design For Television. Today, we are bringing you another Famous Artists article, this time from the Cartooning Course… Willard Mullin on Animals.

Willard Mullin was a type of cartoonist that doesn’t exist any more… a newspaper sports page cartoonist. In the days before high speed film and well lit night games, newspapers relied on cartoonists to illustrate the sports stories that photographers were unable to shoot. They did this by caricaturing the players and utilizing team mascots to represent who was on top and who was in the doghouse.

Mullin was not only the greatest sports cartoonist of his day, he was also one of the most talented artists ever to work in newspaper comics. His drawings are dynamic and full of energy and life. His lines flow beautifully, while still defining the solid forms that underly his drawings. When it came to drawing animals, he was unmatched. I hope you find this useful in your own work.

Willard Mullin
Willard Mullin
Willard Mullin
Willard Mullin
Willard Mullin
Willard Mullin

These pages provide just a small sample of Mullin’s work. If you can, find a copy of his book, "A Hand In Sports". It’s packed with wonderful sketches by this underappreciated cartoonist.

The Famous Artists school is still in operation. Visit their website at

As an added treat, here is an early Mullin piece celebrating the victory of the horse, Omaha in the 1935 Kentucky Derby. Archive supporter, Ted Watts found this treasure in a thrift store and generously allowed us to scan it for the archive. Amazing stuff!

Willard Mullin

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources


This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.
Editorial CartoonsEditorial Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Editorial Cartoons.