Friday, September 14, 2007

Some thoughts on Flash

I've been working on a Charbucks chapter 2 this past week, and have discovered I can do about 20 seconds of finished animation in a week, averaging four hours a day.

THIS IS AMAZING! At least for someone like me, who started out doing pencil drawings that had to be pencil tested on film, developed, cleaned up, inked and painted, and then filmed. Talk about medieval processes!

When I first started using Flash, the emphasis was generally on keeping the file size as small as possible, and it took me awhile to get a grip on that. In fact I never got that grip.

Here's a drawing of Whinsey done with the brush. I set it for Wacom pressure, but I hold a pen so lightly that it never shows a thick/ thin line as it says it will in the manual.

The pencil tool creates a smaller file size than the brush but the line is less interesting..

Now I'm going to optimize the drawing so it has fewer points in it, which means smaller file size.

Look at what happened to all my "curves!"

In the process of optimizing, you also get the Flash "look", super smooth and more modernistic line.

Looks nice in that one image, but it doesn't always turn out that well. So I revert to the plain brush drawing. In about 45 seconds the ink and paint is done-- wowzer!

I make that a graphic symbol, in case I might want to use it again.

But I can also then take this symbol, break it apart, and using the nifty distort tool create quite quickly another symbol that will carry the animation along in a more fluid way that just popping eyes and mouths off the face, the suggested way to use Flash.

Generally it's recommended that in Flash animation you break your character into reusable parts or symbols: eyes, mouths, heads, hands. This is the part that felt especially un-natural to me since I used to always do full animation, not what was once called "limited" animation, where only parts of a character move.

But the way things play out with Flash right now, I find I'm creating animation in Flash, then finishing it up in After Effects so it can play on youtube. There's no advantage to keeping file size so small anymore, for animation, as far as I can tell. So I'm just drawing along, sometimes making the girls heads graphic symbols, which can work quite nicely in a library, if you have enough different heads, to switch them out for one another while attempting lip sync.

Since Jon and Dinah are both away today, I spent longer at the computer today, and animated almost 15 seconds in less than five hours.

Why did I do this long essay? I just finished reading some Pioneer Woman recipes and was impressed by the excessive number of photographs and clear writing, and determined not to make her biscuits and gravy recipe.

Here's a link to the essay Linda mentions in the comments.


linda said...

Sally, this is fascinating, and exactly what I'll need to be doing with my rat character when I get back on Monday. Thank you.

Not to mention that I'm giddy with excitement about seeing Chapter 2. Pioneer Woman is a GREAT blog.

sallyg said...

Thanks for this great information! I'm really inspired now. I know what you mean about frustration of trying to get interesting line quality with wacom.
Sometimes I feel like I have to draw a line as a shape that gets thicker and thinner and then fill it, but of course that's a lot of work. Also looking forward to chapter 2.

Sally said...

Linda, When I saw your cartoon of Whinsey a few weeks ago, I was intiruged by the line style and it got me thinking.

Sallyg, I am basically a sloppy artist. Because motion and story and scripting have been where my work's headed, I often omit polish. Also I don't have the skill.

So I'll do a part two on this to show how you do that.

Namowal said...

I agree with you (and sallyg) that it's not easy getting good line variation with the waccom. My hand isn't that steady in the first place so between that, the slick surface of the tablet and the fussy nature of the pressure sensitivity, it's often a fight to get what I want. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has trouble getting the line quality they want.
p.s. thanks for the Flash demo. That looks like a fun program! :)

linda said...

p.s. But what I meant to ask is: If you're doing 20 seconds of Flash in 20 hours (then you went to 15 seconds in less than 5 hours) ... How long did it take you to do 20 seconds of Quasi or 20 seconds of Make Me Psychic back then?

Sally said...

When I did the Quasi films, I worked full time at Snazelle Films in San Francisco. I was paid to work on them! and expected to be there 40 hours a week with one hour off for lunch. Gregg Snazelle was my patron. He was so wonderful to me. I'd often take work home too. And I didn't paint all the cels. The process of cel animation was dismaying, the time, the materials, the steps involved. Only the story part was really fun, aside from music and sound effects.

Now each cartoon took two years, so if you did the math you'd probably get a headache.

Working on what I'm doing right now, with just two characters mostly sitting around talking, the animation isn't so challenging, and I'm just figuring out a flow that works really well, with distortion and overdraw on images already existing, or switching out symbols for one another. I have the library of previous episodes to pull from.

Unfortunately I started doing this in pencil, now using brush instead, so I have to redraw quite a few things. But even today I got almost ten seconds done, while doing some major house cleaning (i.e. carrying other family members' possessions to the trash-- ooh me bad.)

linda said...

ooh...I love carrying other family members' possessions to the trash, but I always get in BIG trouble.
You didn't carry your diary back out there, did you?
I just googled Gregg Snazelle and read these pages:,M1
This is a fascinating story. And so Gregg died in '99? What a magnificent guy.

Sally said...

Linda, the link didn't quite make it, maybe too long, but I think i found the piece, and you know, I've never read that before. It's a book by Wheeler Dixon, right? I think I remember now being interviewed, and sending him a lot of material, but it was a surprise. I'll post a link in the blog since they work better there than in the comments.