9/17/09

Yo ho, yo ho, an animator's life for me!

I think I am starting to get the hang of this gig. My assignments for this week involved pretty much the same concept as the week before, the bouncing ball. However, the twist on this one was that it was going to all be hand-drawn animation (sorry for those who wanted to see more stop motion... maybe some other day when I have some time). I've never done any hand drawn animation before, so I was a bit apprehensive as to what to expect. However, I quickly discovered myself having a lot of fun.

One of the most important aspects of animation is to understand how things move. Pretty much everything moves in some sort of arc or another. Very few things in this world are capable of mechanical movement... besides, uh, machines.

Anyway, for this exercise, I had to animate two different balls of varying weight. By capturing the impression of weight, one can say a lot about an object. Think back to the early days of Disney animation with 'Steamboat Willie." Things in that cartoon were lifted up by Mickey Mouse without any effort at all. This is a style that is referred to as 'rubber hose' animation because everything looks pretty much like, well, a rubber hose. Much more realistic animation can be achieved by simulating the weight of objects.

I started out by plotting out the spacing and timing of the ball by timing a bouncing rubber ball and marking when it dropped. I have a special application on my iPod that is a stopwatch that will tell you how many frames per second have elapsed since you started the timer. It's pretty handy.

Next I found some footage on YouTube of someone dropping a bowling ball and timed it.
Then I set to work, plotting out the path of the balls in space, remembering that their velocity is not linear, but parabolic. At the top of each arc, the ball slows down, therefore, the spacing between drawings gets tighter. After a few hours, I had a good deal of drawings laid out and drawn. Next I had to get them into the computer.

I have a handy little program on my computer called iStopMotion which is really quite fun. It is what I used to do the previous claymation animations. It essentially will use any webcam or video camera to take stills of whatever you want. You can even do time lapse photography if you want to... I might try that some day. It's relatively inexpensive if you want to pick up a copy for yourselves. An alternative for the PC side is MonkeyJam or Helium Frog. Well, each drawing had to be photographed, one at a time. Two frames per drawing (except for the really fast motion) at twenty four frames a second for seven seconds equates roughly to 84 drawings total per animation. Yeah, it took a while... here is how I have to do it:

For a regular animation studio, you would have a more professional setup for doing final work and even probably a form-feed scanner for your pencil tests (which is pretty much what this equates to). However, us poor, starving grad students have to make do with what we have.

And voilà! There you have it... sort of. After some cleaning up in Adobe After Effects, this is what they came out as:

video

video

I've still got a long ways to go, but this is a fun start. I hope to be able to do some more fun stuff like this.

1 comment:

Sally said...

That is really, really cool! I can't believe all that work for 6 seconds - amazing stuff!