#1 03-27-2009 4:56 am

eric s
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New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

As the month draws to a close, it's time to start putting that super-polish on your shot.   That means taking a good, hard look at every tiny detail to make sure that each frame is what you want it to be.   

Once in a while you come across a piece of animation advice that completely reconfigures the way you think about animation.  For me, one of the most earth-shaking refrains that was ever told to me is this: 

Every frame is a drawing.


The world is full of diamonds; go out and find them.

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#2 03-27-2009 6:37 am

threedsnack
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

"The reason that there is so much successful 2d and stop-motion is that the [successful] animators actually pay attention to every frame, every pose, every silhouette, every bit of spacing. These are the things we often overlook in CG when we're thinking about technical things like rotations, spline tangents, constraints, and IK/FK switches. "

Excellent point. They have to go out of their way to make a change, therefore they really have to understand what the mechanics are, and why they are moving that finger/arm/whathaveyou.

"Once in a while you come across a piece of animation advice that completely reconfigures the way you think about animation. For me, one of the most earth-shaking refrains that was ever told to me is this: Every frame is a drawing."

Defenitely. Thanks once again!

p.s. not sure if I'm reading it wrong, but...Paragraph 8, the last complete sentence wink


"Adapt and overcome." - Viggo Mortensen

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#3 03-27-2009 7:42 am

Kobb
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

I am absolutely certain that once I get this through my thick skull, I will be a much better animator.

As it is, I am way more comfortable animating with paper than in Maya, because of that mysterious brain shutoff that happens. It drives me crazy, but one day I will succeed in getting the stuff I already know about 2D to work for me in 3D. Rereading this every so often should help get my head in the right place - thanks for posting it.

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#4 03-27-2009 3:32 pm

eric s
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

You guys are totally right, and it's something that we all need to keep in mind.   I like the way you put it, threedsnack, that the other disciplines have to go "out of their way" to make a change, so there's likely to be more thought and intention put into it.   (incidentally, they're called "disciplines" for a reason)   

As for every frame being a drawing/lithograph, something else just occurred to me this morning: Check out the top of this page.  Every month we get to see 4-6 frames from the previous month's winning animation.   It's no coincidence that each one of those frames is clearly posed, tells a story, evokes character, etc.    That's what it takes to make it to the top of the voting each month.   smile


threedsnack wrote:

p.s. not sure if I'm reading it wrong, but...Paragraph 8, the last complete sentence wink

See?   This is exactly why we animators need peers to look over our work.   I must have proofread that thing at least three times, and yet there are still things that slip through my attention because I'm too close to it.    Thanks for keepin' an extra eye out for me, man.


The world is full of diamonds; go out and find them.

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#5 03-27-2009 4:57 pm

daugaard47
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

Eric-
That was a great artical. I have a question though. You say for one sec you need 24 frames of drawings. I've been hearing about animators animating on TWO's. What is that? Is it simply  drawing 12 frames instead of 24 frames to save time. If so what is your opinion on this method.

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#6 03-27-2009 5:20 pm

eric s
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

daugaard47 wrote:

Eric-
That was a great artical. I have a question though. You say for one sec you need 24 frames of drawings. I've been hearing about animators animating on TWO's. What is that? Is it simply  drawing 12 frames instead of 24 frames to save time. If so what is your opinion on this method.

That's a great question.

Typically, film runs at 24 frames per second.  So most animators animate at 24 frames per second (fps).   (television and video game standards are a bit different, so we'll leave those aside for simplicity's sake)

In hand-drawn and stop-motion animation, animation is often done on twos, which as you mentioned, means that it runs at 12 frames per second.   However, since film still runs at 24fps, the cameraperson will shoot each drawing for two frames-- the sequence would be, for example: frame 1, frame 1, frame 2, frame 2, frame 3, frame 3, frame 4, frame 4, etc.

There are several reasons why an animator may animate on twos.   One reason is because, especially when it comes to stop-mo and hand-drawn, it doesn't look much different when you view it at speed (that is, at 24fps).   If you know how animation works (and persistence of vision), you will be able to achieve a smooth result.   And it cuts your work in half--suddenly, you only have to do 50 drawings instead of 100!

Practiced animators also know when to switch over to "ones" for several frames in order to sell an action better.   So you may see a sequence like: frame 1, frame 1, frame 2, frame 2, frame 3, frame 4, frame 5, frame 6, frame 6, frame 7, frame 7, etc.

When it comes to computer animation, however, something changes.   I've seen lots of theories and speculation about why this is, but what it all comes down to is that in computer animation, twos look choppy and strange.   Since the computer is interpolating every movement your characters make, you have to pay attention for each of those 24 frames every second.

I should also mention that there is a lot of hand-drawn and stop-motion animation done on ones.   It's not just the CG people who have to think about 24fps.

But if you're ever looking for a fun animation exercise, try setting your computer program (Maya, Max, Belender, whatever) to run at 12 frames per second, and see how things turn out.  I've learned a lot by doing that, especially about follow-through and holding poses.

I hope that answers your question and makes things a little clearer.  If not, let me know, and I'll be happy to give it another try.   smile


The world is full of diamonds; go out and find them.

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#7 03-27-2009 6:17 pm

daugaard47
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

So , for one sec. of animation @ 24fps. Do you think it would be good practise to block out your scene on twos then go back and make your adjustments to fill in the other 12 frames so it doesn't look so choppy?

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#8 03-27-2009 6:58 pm

eric s
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

daugaard47 wrote:

So , for one sec. of animation @ 24fps. Do you think it would be good practise to block out your scene on twos then go back and make your adjustments to fill in the other 12 frames so it doesn't look so choppy?

There are many different ways that people have of blocking in their shots.   It's usually up to each animator to find their own method and whatever works for them.

Right now, a common method of blocking seems to be to set your tangents to "stepped" or "held" (depending on what term your software uses), and start setting keys where you need them.   So, for example, you may have a pose on frame 1 and then a pose on frame 24.   The next thing you may want to put in will be a breakdown--so you could put that on frame 16, for example.

Once you have those three frames, you can put a breakdown between 1 and 16, and a breakdown between 16 and 24.   And breaking it down, on and on until you have a keyframe on every other frame or so--essentially, having the scene animated on twos.

Then, you select all of your keys and set their tangents to "spline" or "linear" and work, like you said, to make the animation less choppy.

I know several animators who work this way.   I also know animators who use methods that are wildly different from this one.   I think it's a useful method to explore and see how it feels to you.

Good luck!   smile


The world is full of diamonds; go out and find them.

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#9 03-27-2009 7:19 pm

daugaard47
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

Eric-
Great stuff here. Realy appreciate you taking the time to explain this. I understand what you mean about finding your own method. I'm still searching for my method,but how you described it make the most scense to me. I have been trying to read and watch as many tutorials that I can find. What I seem to notice is that each animatior seems to have there own way of doing things. Some start out with there tangents in Flat /Stepped mode  while others use linear / linear through the whole process. To each his own I guess.
Thanks Again!

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#10 03-27-2009 9:09 pm

eric s
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

It's true.   Everyone does their on thing, and usually comes to it through trying a bunch of different things.   Give it time.

For what it's worth, there are professional animators at the big studios who will tell you "I'm still trying to figure out a method I'm comfortable with."   So at the very least, you're not alone.   smile


The world is full of diamonds; go out and find them.

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#11 06-08-2011 9:52 am

LinaAnimation
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

Hi Eric,

what I did the last two hours was reading all your great hints and tips and I have to say: Wow,I'm amazed. That's such good stuff you are sharing here!  especially the 'put it there' and the 'is it a lithograph' thing! I kinda know, that every frame is supposed to be a drawing but when animating I totally forget about it! So now i have words for it and be sure there will be 2 new post its written by me in the next couple of minutes saying 'put it there' and 'is it a lithograph?' smile

Thanks so much!

Alina

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#12 06-08-2011 7:01 pm

eric s
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

Thanks Alina!   I am super flattered that you found the Helpful Hints... helpful!   smile

I've found that a lot of the time, these things start to build on top of each other.   If you spend a lot of time making sure that one frame looks beautiful, 'like a lithograph,' a lot of the other frames will start to look beautiful, too.   And that will help you make the less-beautiful frames more beautiful because you know where they're heading... and that will make other other frames more beautiful.   smile   

Good luck working those concepts into your workflow.   Feel free to post any questions, or success stories here in the thread.  I'd love to hear them!   smile

- Eric


The world is full of diamonds; go out and find them.

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#13 06-08-2011 8:09 pm

rdchan
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

Yeah I've recently started adopting a "key as much as you can in stepped mode" workflow since my class 2 AM mentor told us that was his method... as he showed us a file that he keyed every 2 frames.  I had never really thought of it that way, but once I saw it, it made a lot of sense to me.  However, once I started working this way, it was really tedious.  Because that means you have to go in and pose the character every couple of frames.  It almost seems like a waste of technology.. if you're working on a machine that tweens for you.  But once you get over that hump, you realize your results are so much better.. and it's hard not to work that way.

So some keys for me were to slow down and think about the whole body when setting a key, no matter if it's a key frame, or a breakdown, or the 3rd breakdown of an action.  It's easy to want to work through an animation piece fast because you just want to see it in it's final state.  But if you start hastily going through it, you seem to miss a lot of things that later turn out to be problems or big gaps in your animation.  For example, i was working on an acting piece where a guy is making emphasis on his dialog by slamming his pointed finger on a desk a couple of times.  At first I did just the up and down action of the arm and wrist.  Some people would stop there and maybe deal with the overlapping action when you get to spline.  But I decided to do it in blocking, and keyed the breakdowns for overlapping action.  Which is cool, some people will stop there and move on.  But then I started looking at the whole body.. and acting it out, coming to realize my whole body moves when i do that motion.  So i started blocking in the shoulder, then the spine.. which in turn affects the neck and then the head.  Next thing i knew, I animated the whole body for each of those keys, for an action that was mostly just in the arm.

So this ties in to the "every frame is a drawing" thing.  When you think about how the action you're doing is affecting the whole body at every frame, then you're sort of thinking like a 2d animator or a stop motion animator, who have to draw or move the armature of the character at every frame.  So here's my tip to everyone (just something to try out if you're having trouble with this): When ever you set a key.. whether it's a story telling pose or a breakdown or an inbetween, add values to every controller on the rig and key the whole body.  That'll help you to think about the action as a whole, rather than just the part you want to move.  Sometimes the value will be really subtle.. but try it anyways.  You may come to not like this work flow, but give it a shot and see what results you come up with.


I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse. - Walt Disney

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#14 06-18-2011 2:15 am

eric s
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

Great post, rdchan!   I totally agree with everything you say, and it's awesome that this way of working has turned out so well for you.   High five!

I just wanted to expand on a few points.


rdchan wrote:

... Once I started working this way, it was really tedious.  Because that means you have to go in and pose the character every couple of frames.

I'm totally familiar with this mind.  I've been there myself, for sure.   I think that a lot of beginners (and folks who don't animate at all) expect that computer animation will go faster because, well, you're using a computer!!   It's an understandable, if mistaken premise.   

As so many people have said before, the computer is just a tool.   And like any tool, it's what the artist puts into the work that will shine in the end.   The computer will not animate for you.   It may help automate some of the tasks that traditional hand-drawn animation has to slog through, but the efficiency gain is negligible at best.   

Animators using a computer have to be just as aware of every single frame, each body part, all of the principles of animation, and creating a compelling performance as any other animation medium.

Yes, putting keys on almost every frame is tedious sometimes.   That's the nature of animation.   It's not going to change whether you're using a pencil, a mouse and keyboard, or a puppet and a camera.

(rdchan: I know that you came to this conclusion yourself-- I just wanted to add my two cents about it, for clarity)


rdchan wrote:

So here's my tip to everyone (just something to try out if you're having trouble with this): When ever you set a key.. whether it's a story telling pose or a breakdown or an inbetween, add values to every controller on the rig and key the whole body.  That'll help you to think about the action as a whole, rather than just the part you want to move.  Sometimes the value will be really subtle.. but try it anyways.

Absolutely!   And to re-iterate, y'all, make sure that when you move those controllers you're doing it with intention!  Simply adjusting values on each controller will not get you the desired results.  You want to make sure that you know where you're character's weight is coming from and moving to, and why each body part shifts the way it does.

I'm totally on board with the idea that more keyframes makes you think about your character's mechanics and performance in much more detail.   That's the mental space to aspire towards.   When you start to really get in there and think hard about each keyframe, you'll feel your work start to change and it will be exhilarating.  My experience is that the aforementioned tedium quickly turns to exhilaration at the big difference that small changes can make.

Cheers!


The world is full of diamonds; go out and find them.

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#15 06-18-2011 11:47 am

tomxxmorley
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Re: New Helpful Hint: Every Frame Is a Drawing

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