Friday, September 5, 2008

Working within your means


I started this Flash rambling talking about killing scenes. And, as far as what is going on right now is concerned, I'm blaming the Flash system. In reality, that means budget, though Flash facilitates the drop in budget and the higher expectations of quantity so it's all rolled into one and Flash itself becomes a nice easy target.

I'm seeing some animation gurus, people I hugely respect, take on Flash mostly because they have to. Now, it would be hard for me to criticise any of those people, and probably disrespectful too - they've earned their positions. And me, well, I've earned jack shit.

But I'm worried.

You see, I've seen a lot of flack get thrown on to flat, model-sheet-rigid cartoons (can you throw flack?), and I've seen a lot of people bemoan the loss of so many aspects of animation and cartooning (and I'm one of them). And the antic/settle abuse or similar systems bug me in creating a sameness and mind-numbing pointless bounce to everything so I'm giving them flack too.

But...

I believe that if you take designs, aspirations and techniques that come from systems that nurtured talent, had the budgets to allow for experimentation and perfecting, had the schedules to allow for finding that one unique expression for the scene - take all that and try to sandwich it into a cheap-as-shit, got-to-be-finished-last-Friday Flash system, it just won't work. The cracks will appear. It will look far more like cheap Flash animation than a really flat very controlled rigid show that was designed from the ground up to work within all the limitations of those Flash systems. Even that example I gave yesterday from my own images wouldn't really work all that well because the drawings (while certainly being rubbish enough) aren't flat enough. They'd need to be crushed down to far more Cartoon Network-like designs.

It's like when Disney make a television show based on one of their expensive movies. The designs just weren't meant to work on a tv budget and the animation comes across as piss poor. The cracks appear. Whereas a show like 2 Stupid Dogs, completely flat and all basic curves and angles, looks far better even though it takes a hell of a lot less to make. It worked within its means.

That's why I think El Tigre (as an example) works. There's an example here.

It has vibrant designs with sometimes ambitious colouring that is easy in Flash and wouldn't have been easy back in the old cel days. It relies on strong action posing that requires very little between them to work - just a bit of the antic/settle abuse system. It has a bank of well-designed yet easy-to-use expressions, with some nazi control over the animators.

It knows the limits of the system and works well within them.
Some use the antic/settle abuse and don't look as well. Skunk Fu (click this to see a sample in what appears to be Klingon) doesn't hide the symbol changes as well and the more you see the symbol changes, the scrappier and cheaper the animation looks.

Hiding those symbol changes really is the one true goal of Flash animation.

Oh and just in case someone is going to pull me up on that, I know it's not Klingon.

The show I'm on at the moment is kind of on the edge. It doesn't even have a fraction of the budget of a US show - not even close. It's trying to reach towards those and some scenes are just being killed. There's not quite enough control actually - if anything, I reckon a show like this needs tighter model sheets, less freedom for the animators. Because that's the only way the show could meet its deadlines without risk of a bunch of scenes coming about absolutely awful.

And then the scenes that work, well, they use that system - the antic/settle abuse system. And those scenes bore me.

Bored, bored, bored.

They work though.

But they're boring.

So I'm left wondering if there is any room for decent animation at all with cheap-ass Flash production? Animation that is aiming to get across character or emotion (like those poncy method actors) rather than just trying to hide the production methods. Reach beyond your means and have it look half-assed or severly comprimised. Or work well within them and have it look samey, repetitive, just a system rather than actually bringing something to life, which is what animation was supposed to be.

Is it no-win?

3 comments:

Ron said...

Those traditional skills must be taught and practiced, at least I still believe so, and this is from me, a guy who's used nothing but Flash for 9 years now.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EyEy9ecIDc
I think you're right, Canada IS the MECHA of Flash animation, we've been referred to as America's 'new overseas studio', Flash does it cheaper just like Korea, India, China, and Japan did it cheaper on cel for the U.S. during the 80s and 90s, then North America took back some of the jobs with digital ink & paint, then overseas studios learnned those tricks and did them cheaper, now for the last 10 years, Flash has grown and has converted many North American studios from 2D paper animation to 2D/CG-Flash animation, only now are places like Singapore offering cheaper Flash animation prices, again forcing Canadians to remain competitve and go cheaper and cheaper.... it's too bad.

Bitter Animator said...

Hi Ron, yep, I agree with you on the traditional animation. Looking at your YouTube link, you guys seem to do a lot of prep work in scenes and am I right in thinking you're making a lot of new symbols for most scenes?

It looks almost like the speed of work would just be a little bit faster than old drawn, but limited, animation. Do you find yourself fighting against Flash to retain the more traditional aspects?

I'd be curious to know a little more about your working methods. We're severely limited by time and budget over here.

J.R. Spumkin said...

>>It's like when Disney make a television show based on one of their expensive movies. The designs just weren't meant to work on a tv budget and the animation comes across as piss poor. The cracks appear. Whereas a show like 2 Stupid Dogs, completely flat and all basic curves and angles, looks far better even though it takes a hell of a lot less to make. It worked within its means.


That's why I think El Tigre (as an example) works. There's an example here.<<

Ain't it the truth about those Disney cartoons? "The Little Mermaid", "Aladdin", and "The Legend of Tarzan" look like someone took a huge dump on the original movies.

On another note, at least some Disney sequels at least try to get the modern equivalent of that (the Little Mermaid sequels try, and Tarzan II, as much as it pains me, tried and nearly succeeded).

But you're right on working on them there means. Uh-hyuk, hyuk.