August 6th, 2020

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Instruction: Animation Reference

Muybridge_race_horse_gallop

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

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.

muybridge_tracking

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.

xsheet3D_Horse_Gallop-1

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
tdunipace@animationresources.org

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Posted by Taber Dunipace @ 1:12 pm

August 5th, 2020

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Comic Books: Crime Does Not Pay / Boy Comics

Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro

Here is a little bit of comic book history- a copy of Crime Does Not Pay from June of 1947. This particular comic book is not for the faint of heart. It’s grusome and extreme. In fact, it marks the absolute peak of comic book sadism that led to the Publishers’ Code of 1948 and the condemning of crime and horror comics by psychiatrist, Frederic Wertham in the book, Seduction of the Innocent a few years later.

Soon after this comic was published, publisher Lev Gleason decided to shift gears away from the grusome subjects and focus on a new angle in Crime Does Not Pay comics. Artist/writer Pete Morisi quoted a conversation he had with editor Charles Biro about the change in direction…

Listen, Pete, we’ve got a good thing going here, and we don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to see any blood and guts. I don’t want any violence. Just give me detail, lots of detail!

Detail of what? What am I supposed to show?

Tits!

Some things never change.

This first story by Fred Guardineer does a great job of translating the crime/noir film style to the comic medium with the maximum amount of action per page… and the maximum amount of gunplay. It also features a cameo by a cartoon version of J. Edgar Hoover!

Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro

What’s with that jarring comic relief strip at the end?!

This second story is over-the-line ugly in just about every way imaginable…

Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro
Crime Does Not Pay Charles Biro

Boy Comics Norman Maurer

Here’s another treasure from our archives- the oddly titled Boy Comics Number 39 from April, 1942. This comic book isn’t as interesting for its art, (check out the wonky perspective on that cover!) but rather for its subject matter…

Boy Comics Norman Maurer

Yes, this noir style comic written by cartoonist Charles Biro and drawn by Norman Maurer deals with the animation business! And check out the names of the incidental characters…

Boy Comics Norman Maurer

Sound familiar? And the design of "B.S.", the head of NDN Studios, it a pretty clear caricature of Walt Disney!

Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman MaurerIt seems that Biro had some sort of connection to the East coast animation scene. Does anyone out there reading have more info on this unique comic book? If so, please let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: Mark Mayerson points out the Charles Biro was an animator and director at the Fleischer Studios from 1930-1936. Thanks, Mark!

Boy Comics Norman Maurer

Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Maurer
Boy Comics Norman MaurerBoy Comics Norman Mauer

Animation Resources is looking for collectors of gold and silver age comic books, 50s and 60s Mad magazines, 50s Playboys, National Lampoon, etc. who would be willing to lend us their books to digitize. If you’d like to help out, contact me at… sworth@animationresources.org.

Crime Does Not PayCrime Does Not PayIf you are interested in pre-code crime comics, you’ll want to check out Fantagraphics’ new book, Blackjacked and Pistol-Whipped: A Crime Does Not Pay Primer. It includes 24 stories culled from issues of “Crime Does Not Pay” between 1942 and 1946. You won’t believe your eyes… but make sure you hide these comics under your bed so your mom doesn’t find them!

If too much is never enough, also check out The Simon and Kirby Library: Crime, a collection of impeccably drawn crime comics by the master of the comic book, Jack Kirby.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Comic BooksComic Books

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Comic Books.

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Posted by admin @ 12:14 pm

August 4th, 2020

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Creators and Anti-Social Media

creators social

People love to complain about social media and how it’s dumbing down society and creating artificial relationships between people. We are all faced with timeline feeds full of inane memes, whining, political axe grinding and cut and paste platitudes. Social media is surely a force for evil out to destroy us!

But social media isn’t to blame. We now live in a society where mass media and television have become a part of all of our everyday lives, and it’s been that way for as long as we can remember. When radio was still new, Orson Welles suckered the world with “War of the Worlds”… a program that presented “fake news” about aliens from outer space attacking New Jersey. In the early days of television, commercials lied to us, touting “the brand of cigarettes that doctors recommend”. They tried to make us feel insecure by convincing us that without Pepsodent toothpaste our yellow teeth would destroy our sex appeal. Rumors about the illuminati, UFOs in Roswell, New Mexico and the Red Scare spread like wildfire in the 50s. Junk ideas filled movies, television, newspapers and magazines. Social media didn’t invent this stuff. We did.

We now realize that movies, recorded music, radio, and television are all just as capable of spreading lies as they are enlightening, educating and contributing positively to our culture. Great creators like Edward R. Murrow and The Beatles and Alfred Hitchcock proved that fact and justified the existence of the mediums. Social media has yet to really prove itself.

creators social

IS THERE SOME ASPECT OF SOCIAL MEDIA THAT ENCOURAGES MEDIOCRITY AND DECEPTION? HOW IS SOCIAL MEDIA DIFFERENT THAN “OLD MEDIA”?

The major difference between media of the past and modern internet media is interactivity. In the past, a creator would make something and present it to the world as a program or record album or image in a magazine or on a billboard. The audience was a passive spectator. That isn’t true of social media. We are now both creators AND spectators. That is a huge difference because it blurs the lines between creators and their audience.

Before the internet, creators needed the cooperation of a television network, record label or publisher to get their works seen. Today all we need is an internet connection. Why isn’t this spawning a renaissance in creativity and a blossoming of interaction between artists on the internet?

creators social

THE TRUTH IS WE’RE DOING IT WRONG.

We look to our social media accounts to passively entertain us the way “old media” did, and we abuse it to validate our own ideas. We don’t employ the power of the internet to entertain others and to open our minds to new ideas. We “share” other people’s memes as placeholders for our own point of view on the world. We blindly trust what we see that validates our own biases, and we block any opinion that doesn’t agree with our own. That isn’t the right way to create the sort of meaningful two way communication that social media demands.

One would think that creators would be smarter about how they use social media, knowing the power they have to communicate to thousands of people with a single click of a return key. But too often, creators use their channel of communication to complain about personal issues, repost other people’s ideas, and worst of all insult their audience. There’s absolutely nothing to be gained from creators getting into pointless arguments with people over things that aren’t even relevant to what they are trying to create. Every time you go off on an online enemy, your insults and griping are also being seen by the thousands of people you want to recruit to be a part of your audience. Can you imagine a stand up comic that walks out on stage and proceeds to get into a screaming match with a waiter or bartender before they even start their act? They would lose their audience in a flash! It’s no different on social media.

Another big mistake creators make is to generate large quantities of sales pitch rather than large quantities of content. They spend more time and effort spamming commercials for their Kickstarter campaign than they do actually producing and sharing their project. In the internet age, entertainment is all about two way communication. Cut and paste ads don’t cut it. You have to convince people to support you, you can’t just tell them to support you and expect them to do as you say. There are a million Kickstarters and GoFundMe projects out there. The ones that get supported are the ones that people already know. Introducing yourself to your audience with a Kickstarter is putting the cart before the horse.

creators social

SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO ITS FULL POTENTIAL?

First of all, do what you are here to do… create content. You have a free distribution network. No need to enlist TV executives or publishers to get your work to an audience… you can cut out the middle man. Create bite sized content on a regular basis and give it away for free. Yes, free. To build an audience that will support you, you need to give them entertainment that they enjoy and want more of. Once you have a few thousand followers, you can start thinking about how you can convert them into customers. The general rule of thumb is that for every thousand followers who click “like”, ten of them will subscribe to your channel or feed, and one of them will become a customer who actually buys something from you. That means that you need a big pool of eyeballs before you can start asking people to pull out their credit card. Create the kind of entertainment you want to create and break it up into daily or weekly bits and share it for free. If you build it, they will come.

Secondly, present yourself as a real human being, but realize that your audience isn’t there just to serve as your cheerleading squad. Share things about your personality and life. That is how they connect to you as a person and learn to like you. But don’t demand that they validate everything you say or do. Allow other people to be different. That doesn’t mean that you should create a phony online persona. Obviously, you have to be yourself, but it isn’t a good idea to go out of your way to alienate the audience with your beliefs and opinions. Griping and complaining is the best way to alienate people. Instead, try focusing on the good aspects of your life. Share what you do. Don’t just post a photo of your dinner, post a recipe and instructions on how you made it so other people can try it too. If you post a photo of an event or vacation, talk about what you saw and did. Engage your audience and encourage them to participate. Even the small things in daily life can be interesting to people and a positive attitude is infectious.

creators social

Thirdly, it’s vital to understand that the world isn’t all about you. Your social media feed should reflect that. People who only talk about themselves run the risk of getting tuned out. Share things that other people are doing that you think are cool. Post information about art or music that inspires you and articulate why you like it. Talk about books and music and movies and people that are important to you. That will increase the audience for your own work tenfold, because people will understand where you’re coming from and identify with it.

Most importantly, strive be a part of the online community. You are one branch of a larger tree. Try to be a strong and important branch, but take feedback and criticism graciously. On Facebook, I often see people announcing, “You aren’t allowed to post on MY timeline.” But your timeline is their feed! Other people throw down the gauntlet saying. “If you disagree with me, don’t comment on my posts.” Or worse yet, “If you don’t believe what I believe, unfriend me now.” That is a great way to turn people away and isolate yourself. Obviously there are people in this world who are negative and impossible to deal with. If you spot someone like that, just block them without any comment. Social media is a garden and you are just one flower in it. You need to weed the flower bed occasionally to give the flowers room to grow. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just don’t make a big deal about it.

creators social

How well are you doing? Next time you log in to Facebook or Tumblr or Instagram, go to the feed of someone you follow, admire and support. Check out their posts for the past few weeks and think about how their posts represent them, their ideas and their work. Then go to your own timeline and categorize your posts. See how well you’re representing yourself. You might find a way to improve your presence.

When you post on social media, you are presenting yourself and your work to the world. Show your best face. Understand that you are just one part of a lot of people’s online lives. By “friending” you, they are allowing you into their consciousness. Don’t abuse that privilege. Most of all, understand that social media isn’t inherently good or bad. It is what we all make it. Do your part and create and share. Try your best to entertain and inspire. If you succeed, other people will see what you’re doing and do that themselves. That’s what makes for a valuable community and that’s what makes for a strong culture.

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Posted by Stephen Worth @ 2:57 pm