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.
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.