Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You Call This a Crime Scene?

By this point, you may have noticed that pretty much everything is lacking outlines. This was a decision I made before I started animating, which grew out of a test to see if I could animate characters without drawing and inking and coloring. Instead, I'm animating layers of colored shapes that make up the characters, if that makes sense.

I decided to do it this way for two reasons. First, it can be a time-saver. Not having outlines means eliminating a cleanup/inking stage, and sort of eliminates a coloring stage as well.

Secondly, I'm not crazy about Flash's brushes, so getting decent lines means going back and forth to Illustrator, which isn't worth the hassle, especially since cut and paste between Flash and Illo has been broken since 2004.

But I'm kind of missing having outlines. I still have them as a first step, drawing stuff out in Illustrator:

I'll use that one Illustrator drawing as a starting point for when I get into Flash, so there is a little cleanup, but usually just once per scene, not for every extreme or key pose. Here's what this guy looks like all Flashified:

I can live with no outlines this time around. But having no inlines means I have to find some other way to define where the character overlaps itself. I thought I might avoid overlap all together by forcing myself to have strong silhouettes for every pose, but it's a lot harder to not overlap once stuff starts moving. My solution is to separate overlaps with gradients. It looks okay in still images, but in motion, it looks like everyone has dirty forearms.

So, back to animating by building up layers of shapes. It's really not any different than what you would do by roughing things out on paper. I still do the big masses first and layer on top until I get to the secondary action passes. Here's a wireframe version of a grappling sequence. Click on the thumbnail to see the animated GIF:

Each colored outline is a separate layer. Almost everything is shape-tweened, except for the hands and heads, which are symbols. The luchador's face appears to hang off his head because it's masked off except for the top corner of his brow. It looks correct when it's rendered.


Innisanimate said...

Great work, Greg. I can see the stylistic benefits of both versions. The top drawing has so much energy and life...with the loose line work. Why even clean them up? Just rough all around.

Anyway, good luck in completing this, it looks great. I love seeing WIP stuff, very informative and cool.

greg said...

Hey Innis-

Yeah, if it's between roughs and cleaned up drawings, I'll go with roughs every time. I feel like a rough is a visual record of the decisions the brain and eyes and hand were making during the drawing. Or like you said, energy and life. Then it all gets exterminated in cleanup.

But, in the interest of expediency, I'm using a method of getting acceptable results without having to rough out poses. Or at least not in a way that leaves me with sequences of lively drawings to endeaden.

So I'm locked in with this technique for the duration of this project, but I suspect the pendulum will swing the other way for the next one. Overcompensation and all. Keep checking in. And thanks for reading.

Marc Deckter said...

It's interesting seeing the different versions of the same drawing. Your decision to go without outlines is definitely sensible.

Do you think the Flash brushes will improve now under Adobe?

Great post label!

greg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greg said...

I'd like to think one day we will see Illustrator-style brushes in Flash. From what I've heard it's not coming in CS3. In fact, based on what's been previewed, and from the few discussions I've had with folks in the know, it sounds like Flash is going to become progressively less useful to folks who use it the way we do, for "cartoon animation."

Apparently, Adobe is understandably responding to the much larger Flash user base of web developers. So the animation tools likely to emerge will address the needs of hard working people who write actionscript all day, and not those of the jokers concerned with things like arcs, cushioning, deformation along a path, or line quality. For example, I understand they've overhauled the way keyframes are set. The new method is supposed to "make it impossible" to do in-betweening the way we currently do.

Better backup your MX2004 discs now!

Marc Deckter said...

Wow, big changes are in the works. Maybe it's time to switch to ToonBoom...

greg said...

I guess we'll see how the rumors shake down, and where Adobe is really taking things when CS4 drops.

Switching to ToonBoom means your software budget just quadrupled, plus re-training everyone, and kiss the pool of Flash freelancers goodbye. Kind of a weighty decision.