Inbetweening Madness

As I mentioned last week, I’m writing a short progress report to let everyone know where I’m at with the current scene.

One thing that I’m reminded here, is how long it takes to do inbetweens. At 460 frames and featuring two handdrawn/animated characters, the scene is just a massive amount of work. I’ve already been on this for over two weeks and based on my current pace, it looks like I still have over 120 hours of inbetweening time left to put in. If I had to plan the scene over again, I would have approached it in a totally different way, using vector tools and automated inbetweening, in combination with hand drawn inbetweens. I guess I wanted to see what was feasible using a no short cut approach, but the reality is that if I try to do the film the way I’m doing this scene, I’ll never get it done. It’s too late to back down and redesign the scene at this point, but it will sure be a test of will to get it done. To give you an idea of my inbetweening process, I did a video capture. This inbetween took about 23 minutes to do, but through the magic of time lapse, you can view the process in less than four.

A big thank you to all those who offered a hand in helping. It is important for me to do the whole thing myself so that I can evaluate how long it will take me to do the 4-minute film singlehandedly. It will force me to devise tricks to speed up my process and will also help me budget and plan better for when I take the film to the next level. I’ll be back next week for another progress report.


Cintiq, Tablet, Paper and Radioactive Hand

The scene I’m currently working on is by far the most difficult I have faced since starting the project: it is completely animated traditionally, features subtle acting, and is 460 frames in length. That’s a lot of drawings, when you consider two characters, with tone layers and effects animation.

By Friday (Feb 22), I’d managed to rough out the entire scene so everything was peachy. Then, I cleaned up the key drawings and added a lot of subtle acting at that point. That mission was completed by Monday night (Feb 25). The next day, I started doing the inbetweens. There’s a LOT of them.

On Tuesday (Feb 26), after nearly 12 hours straight, with my hand rubbing against the screen of the Cintiq, I started feeling some massive tingling. I’ve had a Cintiq for years and always enjoyed working with it, but I never spent as much time as I am now, with my hand set against the screen. On Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, whenever I did traditional animation, I did it on paper and scanned it. On other projects, I used tools that necessitated only partial time with my hand on the screen. With traditional animation using a Cintiq, it’s a different ballgame. You’re basically drawing non-stop on that screen, something I’ve been avoiding as much as possible by exploring techniques such as the “Puppet Tool” in After Effects, to create some of the animation. But in cases where I want the acting to shine through, and the character to have a soul, there’s just no substitute for the good ol’ hand drawn stuff.

When I looked at how many more drawings were left to do, I quickly realized that I’d most likely be inbetweening this scene for the next two weeks and I remembered why my assistants at the movie studios were so precious. On Tuesday night, the tingling in my hand was so bad that I was started to think that I’d probably microwaved it. My goal with Rex is to be 100% digital―I was starting to question whether or not that was a good idea.

On Wednesday (Feb 27) morning, after drinking my healthy juice (Ginger, Carrots, Spinach, Celery and Apple), I went to my workstation and started the tedious inbetweening process again. After about an hour, the tingling in my hand was back with a vengence. So bad, in fact that I had to stop working. I sat down and started thinking about changing my process. Perhaps the Cintiq was not the way to go? I started considering going back to paper animation. Maybe I could figure out how to print out the drawings I’d already done in Toon Boom, and finish the inbetweening stage on paper? But then, I remember the scanning… the extra steps… There’s also something to be said about working directly in the digital environment. Being able to see the scene progressing and making adjustment as you go. No, I wanted to stay digital.

INTUOS%205%20TOUCH%20PROFESSIONAL%20PEN%20TABLET_Big_intuos5-digitizer-medium-2902[1]Perhaps a Wacom Tablet would be a better way? I no longer have one (gave my old one away about a year ago), but fortunaly, even in a small town like Bellingham, there’s a Best Buy that carries them. I drove there and after choosing the Bamboo Create model and returning it two hours later, I settled on the Intuos5 touch Medium. My problems weren’t over yet, though. After installing the tablet, I quickly realized that I couldn’t get any pressure sensitivity from the stylus. When using the same stylus on the Cintiq, I could get some nice thick and thin lines, and a fabulous sensitivity response, but not using the tablet. I tried everything, rebooting the computer, uninstalling and reinstalling the driver and trying to figure out the problem using Toon Boom documentation, but no luck. Then, I fell upon this thread in the Toon Boon forum. Here’s the part that helped me solve my problem:

“2 days of trying things and thinking about this! I realized the only thing both machines have in common (besides same OS and similar apps) are multiple tablet drivers! The laptop has had a number of various tablets connected to it over the years and the desktop had an Intuos 3 and now the Cintiq – so i deleted all instances of the other tablets – reinstalled Animate and rebooted. Pressure sensitivity is now working!”

In my case, the conflict between the Cintiq and the Tablet was the problem.

So, here we are. My Cintiq is now just a big screen with no funtionality and I have to get proficient at using the tablet for my animation. I did my first inbetween this morning using the tablet, and it was rather awkward. I’m hoping that with practice, I will get good and fast at it. I’m documenting every phase of the scene in progress so that I can share that process when it is done in about 3 weeks time. I’ll post a progress report next week. In the meantime, here are the panels from the graphic novel that comprise the scene.


Rex Emerges

Here are the four panels I just finished animating.

…and here’s the result.

For the “Close-Up” scene, I initially broke down Rex’s face in several parts so that I could create the animation using the Puppet Tool in After Effects. After many failed attempts, I realized the limitation of the tool when trying to imbue the character with life. I scrapped that approach and decided instead, to create the animation using Toon Boom’s hand drawn capabilities. When we see Rex’s close-up, I wanted the character to display a feeling of anxiety. He almost looses his cool, but manages to keep it together. Using my Stylus and Cintiq and using Toon Boom’s “Hand Drawn Animation” setting, I proceeded to rough out the charater on 4s, 6s and 8s. These numbers signify the amount of frames each rough drawing is held for. By working this way, I can get a good feel of how the animation will look when completed. Here’s the video of that rough stage.

Once I’m happy with the rough animation, I clean up the animation keys on an seperate level. I then add the inbetween drawings so that the animation appears smooth. I use color lines for the color seperation in the face so that these lines disappear when the full coloring is applied. At that stage I also put highlights in the eyes and add an eyeblink. This really helps bring the character to life. Here’s the video of the colored clean-up version.

Once that’s done, I draw a tone area over each drawing. The tone is a shaded area that helps give the character dimentionality. Here’s the video with that level added to the Rex animation.

Then, I process the tone level (with the “Tone Node” in the Toon Boom’s filter library) so that it is softer. I add backgrounds and effects elements. For the final touch, I create a subtle camera move over the whole thing so that the scene hooks up better with the previous one. Here it is with all the elements in place.


Here are the three panels I just finished animating and compositing.

Transformations Initially I was thinking of doing a “quick cut” montage of the Blossoms transforming into their creature counterparts, but after listening to the temp music track over and over, I then visualized the whole thing as a single scene. This was a bit more difficult then I first anticipated since so many elements had to be combined and I wanted to retain a pleasing composition at all time. I had to orchestrate the various paralaxing elements while avoiding tangents. Tangents are created when the edges of two separate elements are rubbing against each other, resulting in an uncomfortable visual experience. I had to be very careful when planning the trail paths of the bubbles in the distant background to avoid this.

I also modified the rendering of the electricity on the surface of the sphere from what I had previously. After looking at the Dino Transform scene again, I felt that the electricity was too overpowering, so I adjusted the settings (a combination of blur, glow and transparency nodes). Here is the video of the final(?) scenes:

The “Transformations” scene is a combination of painted elements, hand drawn animation (magic), particle animation (magic bursts), matte animation (bubbles’ trails) and After Effects (Characters). Here’s a look at the magic level which was all hand drawn in Toon Boom. The animation was done straight ahead (no key frame) using my stylus and Cintiq.

I’ve been using the puppet tool a lot for the scenes where the characters are not moving very much and it has been a great time saving device that has allowed me to keep the characters alive with slight movements. However, for this particular scene, I wanted the beetle creature to slowly change perspective when it lowers into the frame. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to achieve this simply by using the puppet tool. Here’s the solution I came up with. First in Photoshop, I broke down the beetle in several separate parts as per the image below:

Beetle_PartsThen, I imported all these elements in After Effects and did this (watch video):