Friday, February 27, 2009

Practical Functional layout Posing For Limited Animation

I learned long ago that if you are gonna do TV animation, the budgets will be limited and you can't write stories that require full animation and lots of drawings or detail. That used to be the excuse for having cartoons be uncreative and boring.

But I reasoned that just because you can't afford a lot of drawings, doesn't mean the drawings you do have can't be at least expressive and interesting.
So I took part of the production system I learned at Filmation and Hanna Barbera and added elements of what I liked about classic cartoons to come up with an efficient practical way of making your cartoons look like they are a lot more elaborate than what the budget actually allows.

In order to use this system, you have to do layouts in house; you can't send them overseas. This is the only way you can have any control over having specific customized poses, and individual artistic style - because the overseas animators are trained to not have any style, or not even to know what the story is about that they are animating. They have no personal claim to anything they work on and don't care.

Nickelodeon - when it built its own studio on my foundation used this system (as best as they could understand it). Then other studios copied their (my) system for awhile. It was the "creator driven) system. Since then, I think many studios have abandoned layouts in favor of drawing storyboards with clean lines and sending them overseas to be blown up for the animators. That makes the storyboard artist more concerned with cleanup than with telling a story. It's also much harder to do really specific interesting drawings when drawing postage stamp size. The system has eroded even though there are still many pretend Spumco Cartoons on TV. Having a sensible production system is just about as important as having talented people on your staff. An illogical system undoes everyone's potential.
If you are gonna do layouts it's really important to have strong artists who are capable of customizing poses and not slipping into stock poses, otherwise it's a waste of money.

20 comments:

gracesix said...

How do you become more creative with facial posing? Do you stockpile drawings of every "face" you can remember and then create from there?

Thomas said...

I think limited animation parodies itself as an assembly line product; because it isn't seamless the way golden era animation is.

The problem of limited animation is a little like the problem of the Hays code for film in the 1930's, but the problem is economics, not morality.
Because the writers had this limitation put on them, they had to find ways around it. It produced the great dialogue that's in 30's screwball comedies.

You could argue that the "limited economics" of animation is caused by a sort of moralism; Like; its just for the kids.

Niki said...

Then I'm not the man for the job, I've already noticed myself moving into stock poses. Worst of all I'm using only one! As soon as I noticed it yesterday while drawing picture and I freaked out so now one girl looks good and the other looks like she's been eating size 11 shoes!

Brubaker said...

"Since then, I think many studios have abandoned layouts in favor of drawing storyboards with clean lines and sending them overseas to be blown up for the animators. That makes the storyboard artist more concerned with cleanup than with telling a story."

Some shows have what they call "storyboard revisionist". Their job is to essentially "tighten" up the rough storyboards so they can be sent to overseas studios. According to Thurop Van Orman alot of modern storyboard artists actually starts off as a revisionist before getting promoted as a full-blown board artist.

Often times they make sure that they keep the expressions the board artist draws, but that depends on how strict the show creators are with the characters being on or off model. In shows like "Flapjack" any off-model character drawings you see is because that's how the board artists drew them. There were times where I could tell who boarded which episodes depending on the designs.

Lluis said...

Hello John, just I gotta thank you so much for all this stuff, I've been trying to do some stuff at home, this limited animation with clear story telling and expressive drawings is really really good!! it's essential for any fun cartoon!

Thanks!!

Paulo A. Pereira said...

For Classical animators I'm seeling my Richard Williams book up on ebay. I actually bought one signed by him recently so I'm selling my other one.

If you don't know who Richard William's is look him up,(how can you be into animation and not know who he is)

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120385218862

drawingtherightway said...

Sorry if this is a dumb question but why is there only the outline of the characters in some of the layout drawings? Also about how long total (storyboard,layout,animation etc.) would it take to make this cartoon?

Brubaker said...

"Sorry if this is a dumb question but why is there only the outline of the characters in some of the layout drawings?"

That means that they want the drawing from the previous sheet to remain the same, only animating on parts that are new.

Hence the limited animation.

ArtF said...

the outlines are the parts that are static throughout the scene. these parts do not move in this particular scene, so they do not need to be redrawn every time. it's part of the limited animation procedure that John uses.

drawingtherightway said...

Oh, I see! I didn't even take notice to that before. Thanks for answering that!

Jocomic said...

hi, nice blog.
Greetings.

Severin said...

Haw, in school they teach us both styles for storyboarding (in my school they did, at least). The theory was that the loose storyboards were for the director and the tightened storyboards were used to sell the story to people with money.

I guess if studios want to save themselves the cost of hiring a couple layout artists then bully for them.

Frank Macchia said...

I love seein your layouts. you definitely present layout as one of the most appealing, important, and creative steps along the the pipeline.

Which is funny because everywhere else, layout seems to be treated as a redundant, monotonous job.

i think i like your method better lol.

JC DESSAINT said...

"the overseas animators are trained to not have any style, or not even to know what the story is about that they are animating. They have no personal claim to anything they work on and don't care."
Hi John, I d'like to precise your remark about foreign animators a little:

STYLE
Animators wherever they work in this world, USA, Canada, France or Korea, they all need time to get on models. Do you think a musician can play automatically a new elaborate piece of music without any training?
In the overseas studios as you call them you are switching style on every production.
You got to deliver 200 feet a month and approved. The quality will necessary improve after a while of practice.
Each studio wants to develop his own style, own identity and often you are wasting your time trying to understand and draw properly their models instead of animating.

Most of the time directors have opposites demands. (this time I am simply not allowed to stretch and squash the characters because I'll be off model and it's bad, said the director...)

Only animators working for the same show or company for years can master the characters.
The animation may be awfull most of the directors just want to see their characters on model.

No need to discuss about the salary. If you want to get enough money to live you'd better work on easy crappy shows. Shows like yours are far the most enjoyables and satisfying but looking at the footage price you'd better have a second job.

STORY
All animation directors have the storyboard with a good translation, everywhere I worked I did saw it but 99,9% of the storyboards are the same stories (with a slightly change of style), the same posings...arm up, head bobs...blink, boring to death.
So are the x-sheets.
They are supposed to be created by directors or animators but I saw few well timed x-sheets even on your last R&S show. It probably take the same time to fill in a complicated x sheet than to do the real key animation. So it takes more time to read it and translate it into animation. If a director can show clearly what he wants its simple to fix it on paper. When you start to detail an xsheet by separating every single finger on every frame, then eyes...it's becomming a very complicated gymnastic and I do like to treat everything in full animation, I can get concentrate on the whole character and not focus on dozen of separated secondary animation details. A clear outline of the main action is worth a tons of little details scribbled on an x-sheet. I know that because I did the same obvious mistake as director by wanting to plane everything carefully.
When the board and the x sheet are bland why overseas animators should do the director's job and create a specific acting? It takes time an none is allowed to change a line. We even never get the soundtrack before animating.
( I got your ren and stimpy audio files weeks after finishing the key anim, I don't know why)

CARE
animators do care about the quality of their work. Everytime I've met bad animators it was in bad studios. They are paid a very cheap salary, they are plenty aware of that and see no reason to get interested in what they're doing. Very logical.

I am eager to see your new creations, always years ahead of what we're making everyday in terms of fun, and your blog is a goldmine for students and professionals who care. Thanks

Amir said...

Nice style of animation!!! I don't want to be pushy... but would you mind checking out my post I did of the Ren and Stimpy show?.........If you did want to check it out then you would have to go to P.S. 116.org, then go to the blog section and scroll down to the Video games and T.V. section, and once you've clicked on it, just look for my post on the ren and stimpy show.....and maybe you could...I don't know...maybe leave a comment? Of course you don't have to do it...but it would be an honor to have a comment from the creator of one of the most funniest shows ever.

JohnK said...

Gimme a link and I'll check it out.

Jorge Garrido said...

Here's that link.

http://116videogames.blogspot.com/2009/02/ren-and-stimpy-show.html

Cute kids, remind me of a young me on the internet.

John A said...

I guess I was really naive,but years ago, when cartoon studios moved over to digital methods of production, I rejoiced because I thought that MAYBE these cost cutting methods would allow more actual animation to be done in house. And why not? animators can check their work almost immediately,you don't need to watch it on a moviola like in the old days. Digital coloring is quick and efficiant, and you don't have to worry about dust or scratches on the cels. Silly me, I figured all the money saved with the new technology would create better looking animation, but I was wrong. It seems every step of the way, management seems to find a way to make the artist even more irrelevant to the whole process. What is this obsession with sending the work to a foreign country? Do you really save that much money? Why don't publishing companies write their books in English, send them somewhere to be translated into a foreign language and then send the result back to the U.S. to be translated back into English? Because you would inevitably lose something in the translation, that's why, why do you think you could direct an artist from the other side of the globe and get anything better than a rough idea of what you started out with? There are lots of talented people working in the U.S. but outside of the L.A. area (where the cost of living is much lower)that could deliver a quality product AND understand the studio's directions in the first place. And if there is a problem, getting on the phone or hopping on a plane to kick some ass is a relatively simple matter. This country is full of empty office space waiting to be put to good use. I'm an American, I think the American short subject (along with the comic strip )is the United States' greatest contribution to art in the 20th century and it just depresses me to watch them both slowly die due to stupidity and mismanagement.

Brubaker said...

"What is this obsession with sending the work to a foreign country? Do you really save that much money?"

Yes.

Hobo Divine said...

Sad but true...l