Thursday, February 28, 2008

Graphics tablets, flipping and doodling

Andy gave me a trick in the comments section of my last post - if I map the timeline scroll commands to a slide bar on the graphics tablet (I'm using my new Cintiq), I can approximate the whole paper flipping thing.

So far, it's actually not bad. It's not paper. But it's not bad.

Where it falls down is in the level of control and speed. Animators can (and do) flip so fast you sometimes won't know what they are looking at. They also don't always flip their drawings in sequential order, something almost impossible with a tablet/timeline setup.

But, hey, it's better than not having it at all, right?

Although, part of me is really wondering if we're moving to computers just for the hell of it. I mean, when it comes to more traditional style animation, where your paper flipping skills really come into play, why move from a system that works to a system that doesn't work as well? To satisfy producers? I don't know.

Murray Bain, however, of renowned Copernicus animation studio - something that more than qualifies him as an expert in the field - made an excellent point: old WB guys pegged their drawings on the top (as did most animators in the early days) and so it was more about the drawing than that rolling 'animating in motion' that I was talking about in my last post. His comment is worth reading and, you know, he's absolutely right.

There are extremes of timing in the old Warner cartoons that perhaps would have gone against instinct if they were using the 'flip like a crazy person' method that I was trained in and became pure habit (I flip single drawings and don't even notice I'm doing it).

But, as Murray points out, there's a fluidity that came with the bottom-peg switch that I don't think could have happened without the flipping or rolling. I've had the pleasure of seeing Glen Keane work many, many years ago. His drawings were loose, each one just looking like a sweeping line of action and his paper was fraying at the edges from excessive flipping but the movement was just beautiful once it hit that line tester.

Those were the days when I was young enough to be inspired and had the energy and drive that has long since left me. But, hey, I think the reason I'm beginning to think about these things again is that I may, just maybe, be getting a little bit of my love for animation back. Just a little. A tiny shred. The littlest of little morsels.

Anyway, I've been getting to know my new Cintiq and it's a lot of fun. Much, much better than the plain ol' Wacom because you're actually drawing where you're looking. It doesn't have the resistance of paper and I'm having some control issues but I'm getting a bit better at it and I'm enjoying it. It does have a lot of potential and, importantly, it's much cleaner than pencils, paints and so on. No more shiny graphite hands, endless washing and then heavy-duty hand cream.

I have sensitive hands.

Here's something I knocked up on my Cintiq, following my Spambots encounter:

It's me, saving Planet Doom, a place I hate but it has sexy blue chicks. Like a grown up Smurfette. Yeah, it's scrappy but what the hell.

As I write this, I'm the first person in the studio this morning and, just passing someones desk and noticing what they're working on, I've spotted one massive breakdown in communication. It's going to be an interesting, if frustrating, day.

1 comment:

Andy Latham said...

You are right about the Cintiq taking time to get used to and it has a long way to go before it could actually replace pencils.

I do however like the fact that I am not concerned with wasting expensive animation paper when I'm using it (maybe that isn't so much of a concern for you if the studio buys your paper, but it's a lot of money to me!). I also find that I sometimes forget I'm using a computer. I often find that when I erase, I end up blowing on the screen or brushing my hand over it like I would to get rid of the bits left over by a real eraser. How weird is that?!

Anyway, I love the picture you did and I hope your day goes smoother than you thought!