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Old December 26 2009, 10:50 PM   #1
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How Do They Animate?

I was watching The Simpsons (my favorite animated series) and I started wondering how they animate so smoothly. I tried Google, but I couldn't quite phrase the question right to get what I was looking for, so I figured I'd ask the denizens of TBBS, of whom there are members that have hobbies and occupations as animators.

How do they animate so many cells and keep everything so smooth? The lines stay still from one frame to the next. How do animators keep everything so steady? If I tried to do the same, my images would look completely different each time, and they would never gel enough to appear as smooth and realistic.

Your answers are appreciated.


J.
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Old December 26 2009, 10:59 PM   #2
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Re: How Do They Animate?

afaik, it used to be done completely by hand using transparencies, but nowadays is drawn with software using a process reminiscent of 3D animation, but their system works entirely with 2D art.

I believe it was futurama that pioneered the technology.
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Old December 26 2009, 11:02 PM   #3
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Re: How Do They Animate?

Ice Queen wrote: View Post
afaik, it used to be done completely by hand using transparencies, but nowadays is drawn with software using a process reminiscent of 3D animation, but their system works entirely with 2D art.

I believe it was futurama that pioneered the technology.
Really? I never considered transparencies at all, although I should have, since I've owned cells on transparencies. I just thought they used those because it was sturdier.

As for computer animation, while it is fascinating, I like traditional animation, at least in the same vein as the Simpsons (the particular episode that goaded that line of thought was "Bart After Dark" from Season 8).

So did they really animate thousands upon thousands of transparencies to get that look? If so, wow!

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Old December 26 2009, 11:10 PM   #4
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Re: How Do They Animate?

I sincerly doubt they're using transparencies... everything is done digitally now. It's much cheaper that way.

Traditional animation is done by first drawing out keyframes which capture the important poses and framing. These are done by the lead animators traditionally (when you see animation story boards, they are usually rough versions of these). The keyframes are then given out to the animators who then actually draw the inbetween frames (inbetweening or tweeing). This is just a high level summary of course, there's lot of other steps and different animation passes that are done. But yes, all traditional animation whether it's done on an animation board or purely digitally, is hand drawn.

It isn't really reminiscent of 3D art at all, unless it's being done in flash or something along those lines (which caries with it a rather distinctive look, see the esruance commercials or South Park for something like that).

Edit: And to add, the tried and true method if it's being done on paper is just to flip back and forth. Animation tables have lights under the table to illuminate the paper from underneath so you can see the previous frame or two as you're drawing the next one. When everything was done on paper back in the day, the frames would initially be drawn like this and transferred to transparencies later, IIRC.
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Old December 27 2009, 12:06 AM   #5
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Re: How Do They Animate?

In other words, in traditional animation, they recreate the image so exactly that they can draw exactly the same style without a deviation in the lines themselves? I say this because I have seen animation where the lines squiggle and wave (the Dr. Katz cartoons for example), and I've wondered whether it was done on purpose or if the artist couldn't recreate the image quite as accurately.

Oh, and sorry if I sound like a noob, I've just thought about this a lot.

J.
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Old December 27 2009, 12:06 AM   #6
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Re: How Do They Animate?

There is a pretty distinct different between the current Simpsons animation and the animation of old. It seems rather obvious that it's being done with computers rather than being completely drawn out by hand.

However, I never considered the transparency thing. I've always been impressed with hand-drawn animation. I would imagine it is very tedious work.
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Old December 27 2009, 12:15 AM   #7
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Re: How Do They Animate?

That's why a lot of animation is sourced to Korea to make the labor intensive process for cost-efficient.
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Old December 27 2009, 12:17 AM   #8
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Re: How Do They Animate?

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
There is a pretty distinct different between the current Simpsons animation and the animation of old. It seems rather obvious that it's being done with computers rather than being completely drawn out by hand.

However, I never considered the transparency thing. I've always been impressed with hand-drawn animation. I would imagine it is very tedious work.
To me, it would be like typing the same form letter thousands of times, over and over again in exactly the same way, and every so many pages, changing a word here or there. It sounds very tedious and monotonous, but if it's something you love, I guess you just make it work.

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Old December 27 2009, 12:21 AM   #9
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Re: How Do They Animate?

Yeah, it's a bit like making a flip book...

http://www.howcast.com/videos/1085-H...te-a-Flip-Book
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Old December 27 2009, 12:30 AM   #10
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Re: How Do They Animate?

Traditional animation involves drawing the outline of the characters in black ink on transparent film. The plastic sheets have holes near one edge to allow them to be aligned on top of an earlier frame so that the outlines can be drawn near the coresponding line on the earlier frame. At that point the areas inside the outlines are still completely transparent.

The color fills were added in a subsequent process. The inks used for the fills are formulated to produce an even shade so that there's no unintended motion effect within the individual filled area. Because of this only cartoons with extraordinarily high labor budgets attempted the effects like shadows on the lower side of the character's limbs.

Occasionally someone thought it was an "artistic" effort to fill the character's with an uneven media resembling color pencils. Since the pattern in the shading was different from frame to frame that process produces a vibrating effect withing the fills.
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Old December 27 2009, 12:34 AM   #11
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Re: How Do They Animate?

RobertVA wrote: View Post
Traditional animation involves drawing the outline of the characters in black ink on transparent film. The plastic sheets have holes near one edge to allow them to be aligned on top of an earlier frame so that the outlines can be drawn near the coresponding line on the earlier frame. At that point the areas inside the outlines are still completely transparent.

The color fills were added in a subsequent process. The inks used for the fills are formulated to produce an even shade so that there's no unintended motion effect within the individual filled area. Because of this only cartoons with extraordinarily high labor budgets attempted the effects like shadows on the lower side of the character's limbs.

Occasionally someone thought it was an "artistic" effort to fill the character's with an uneven media resembling color pencils. Since the pattern in the shading was different from frame to frame that process produces a vibrating effect withing the fills.
Ah ha, I see. In one commentary, Matt Groening was talking about when they first started to shade the characters, and it was supposed to be groundbreaking. Until your post here, I wondered why it was so groundbreaking, and now I see why. Your post also answers why I don't see animations with wavy lines in the figures themselves, something that was stumping me. Thanks, Robert.

J.
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Old December 27 2009, 02:06 AM   #12
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Re: How Do They Animate?

Arrqh wrote: View Post
It isn't really reminiscent of 3D art at all
Their software allows characters and other objects to be rotated as you can with 3D models.
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Old December 27 2009, 02:10 AM   #13
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Re: How Do They Animate?

Ice Queen wrote: View Post
Arrqh wrote: View Post
It isn't really reminiscent of 3D art at all
Their software allows characters and other objects to be rotated as you can with 3D models.
Is that how they do "camera angles"? It must take serious vision to turn a 2D cartoon into something that looks like a live action show, because they did this with traditional animation as well.

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Old December 27 2009, 02:29 AM   #14
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Re: How Do They Animate?

I'll make a guess...

i expect what the software does is use a 2D vector definition of an image. Lots of these things will be drawn for different characters. Each from a different angle.

The software can use these as keyframes, and then interpolate them, and can handle them in no particular order, so any view in between those pre drawn keyframes can be shown on screen.

eg, imagine you have three similar points of view A, B, C. Now can rotate the camera between any points within that triangle, not just in a straight line, but with two degrees of freedom.

So with enough of these keyframes you can completely wrap around the object and have free rotation.

To move the camera in and out would not be supported though, because there is no concept of depth to the images. But you can create new keyframes for those nostril shots, and interpolate your way into them as before.
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Old December 27 2009, 02:36 AM   #15
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Re: How Do They Animate?

Ice Queen wrote: View Post
Arrqh wrote: View Post
It isn't really reminiscent of 3D art at all
Their software allows characters and other objects to be rotated as you can with 3D models.
As I said, some styles of animation will do this. Some will not animate in that fashion because it isn't the look that they're after. The Simpsons, for example, does not animate their characters in this fashion.

An animation table, btw, looks like this. The pegs on top are for aligning the pages of animation paper in the manner that RobertVA described, but it's mostly done on paper and pencil first before being redrawn on transparencies. Behind the plastic circle (which can usually be rotated to aid in drawing) would these days be found a plastic light. I did some simple hand drawn animation when I was in school, though the most complicated thing I ever did traditionally was a basic walk cycle.
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