Thursday, September 4, 2008

Animate in Flash in 5 easy steps!

It was an emotional night last night. My double Ally fix included the episodes where Billy died. Very sad. I don't think I've quite recovered from the death of my dog. Anyway, on to Flash -

There are many ways to animate in Flash. Usually, you just shift a symbol and tween it if you can get away with it, barely matching switches in symbols. But telling you that wouldn't do you any good because the results are crap.

No, I'm going to tell you how to do great animation in Flash.

You see, you have one goal when animating in Flash for broadcast. To tell the story? No, that's what the writer is for. To convey emotion? What are you, some kind of poncy method actor?! No, the one true goal of broadcast Flash animation is to hide the symbol changes. That's it. That's what differentiates quality Flash from the cack in the minds of a whole bunch of people.

And I've seen the system to achieve this from many respected Flash animators - people who've worked on big shows. Shows you know, not the kind of crap I work on. This is the top way to animate in Flash.

I call it the 'antic/settle' abuse system. Here's how it goes -

a) Antic. Take Pose 1. Stretch or squash slightly for anticipation (just move away from Pose 2 like it has the plague).

b) Sweep. Create sweep image that is somewhere roughly between Pose 1 and Pose 2. It doesn't matter if pieces are all over the place, you're only going to show this for one frame and nobody will ever see it.

c) Overshoot. Squash or stretch Pose 2 to overshoot the animation (just move your animation away from Pose 1 this time).

d) Hit Pose 2. Bounce up into Pose 2 proper. This is the settle.

e) Wobble. Move random piece. Hair perhaps. Doesn't really matter - just move something and let's say it's secondary action.

Use this system no matter what the mood is, action is, expression is.

I'll show you an example. Let's say I'm watching Ally McBeal and Billy is talking about how much he loves Ally. Then he dies! Holy crap, that was a shock! So I pull my two expressions from the library.
I've got everything I need right here. And I just work through the steps. I've skipped step d in the images because it ends up the same as the end anyway.
Two poses pulled from library (easy). Symbol switch hidden. And the arbitrary wobble makes it look expensive - secondary action doesn't come cheap. If you really want to get fancy, you can ease in your tweening for your antic and ease it out for your settle.

Use it for everything. Character jumps? Antic/settle abuse. Character shugs? Antic/settle abuse. Character raises eyebrow slightly? Antic/settle abuse.

And that is how to animate in Flash. Man, I should charge for such animation secrets. Or write a book. Because that's not just how to animate in Flash in our studio. No, I've seen this technique used in Flash animation from all over the world.

Thing is, some people look at this bounce, bounce, bounce animation and actually think it's bloody fantastic. Like that is what animation is supposed to look like.

But... it's not really animation, is it? It's just following a system to achieve one goal - hide one of the main issues with a Flash-for-broadcast (ie. cheap) system.

I'm seeing people being trained in this system. Like it's the only way to animate and if your scene bounce, bounce, bounces, then that's a good scene.

Is it the animator's fault? They are at the mercy of this Flash system. If they were to actually animate the scenes well and treat each scene as its own piece, they'd never hit their targets and remove the point of doing it all in Flash in the first place. And, while I may be mocking this method, I assure you it works. You'll have your scenes approved in no time. But that constant bouncing probably does untold brain damage to the viewers.

I love Flash as a personal tool. One animator, or two, with an idea, illustrating and realising that idea on their own. That's great. That's artistic expression. But when it was brought into the studios, it started killing scenes, pushing up numbers, pushing down costs - devaluing the craft.

Devaluing the craft.

If it even is a craft any more.

My studio got rid of its drawing desks. There is one animation desk in the whole building now. Everyone is on computers. The line tester is disconnected.

It's not good. It's just not good.

Poor old Billy.


Toole said...

Christ. I sort of did that, not so consciously. This is really gonna help the work I do for other people.

Andy Latham said...

I have seen this on so many kids shows. It's nice to know that at least someone working on that kinda thing isn't happy about it.

Did I just say it's nice to know you're unhappy? Lol well you know what I mean!

Mitch Leeuwe said...

Nice post.

When reading I was thinking that isn't real animation, it are tricks. Like you said later on in the post.

Does it have actually purpose to learn real traditional animation these days? Is it possible to find work if you can animate traditional and if you didn't do much digital...

What do you need to get a job these days in animation..

Im getting interested in the kind of shows you work on.

Bitter Animator said...

Very good question, Mitch. Actually this topic is bringing up several good questions and I'd love to go into them in some posts.

I can only offer an opinion, of course, but my short answer to your question is, yes, it is exceptionally valuable to have those traditional skills. Even in the digital world, any director worth a damn will hire someone with true animation skills over someone who hasn't. You may not always get to use those skills and that will likely frustrate but you'll be valuable.

I would say that unless you're really lucky and there is a big turnaround in the business, you'll have to learn digital too and none of us can afford to specialise but you're doing the right thing by building those traditional skills.