Do Greykid pictures really use AS?

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uncarved
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Do Greykid pictures really use AS?

Post by uncarved » Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:26 pm

Hi to everyone,

I am new to animation and I am impressed with Anime Studio. I have looked at the 'Gallery' on the e frontier website and have marvelled at the clip of 'La Reine Soleil' animation feature. I looked on Greykid pictures website to get some clues as to how they used AS but there isn't any such information. So my question is how is such high quality produced? Do you need additional software? Would the drawing be done with some other package?

As a beginner I do not want to set my sights too high because I do not appreciate the limitations of the software, nor do I want to aim too low because I have not realised the full potential of AS. So I would appreciate some comments and ideas even if you don't know exactly how Greykid pictures produce such quality.

Thanks, Al
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Rasheed
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Post by Rasheed » Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:16 pm

What I have understood from what little GreyKid has revealed on this forum that for the smooth animation (head turns and such) they use point animation--IOW: animation skill. They have very skilled animators that have learned how to use AS.
uncarved
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Post by uncarved » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:05 pm

Hi Rasheed thanks for reply.

[/quote]they use point animation--IOW: animation skill.

point animation is the same as skill? or is this a particular technique?

I found a bit more info on Greykid : http://www.e-frontier.com/article/artic ... 032/1/813/
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Rasheed
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Post by Rasheed » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:30 pm

No, point animation is not the same as skill, but creating smooth animation with point animation involves a lot of skill. Meaning that you can't do good convincing point animation without sufficient skill in drawing and animating. So skill is a prerequisite for doing great point animation.
uncarved
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Post by uncarved » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:34 pm

Excuse my ignorance but I still don't know what 'point animation' is. Could you give me a brief explanation? I couldn't find any answer from my web search.
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heyvern
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Post by heyvern » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:35 pm

It comes down to skill baby, skill.

Point motion is moving those points exactly where you want them. It is a lot of effort but if you have the animation skills to back it up you can do ANYTHING!

The beauty of that sample comes from artistic talent. It could have been done with pencil on paper or with ink on cells or crayons on paper bags. AS is just the tool. Of course it is a great tool. ;)

Me, I'm too lazy and UNSKILLED to do that kind of point motion. I use bones more than point motion. ;) It is all a matter of preference and what gets the job done for you.

-vern
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Post by uncarved » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:37 pm

Thanks for taking the time to explain. I finally got it!
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Post by human » Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:38 pm

heyvern wrote:

"The beauty of that sample comes from artistic talent. It could have been done with pencil on paper or with ink on cells or crayons on paper bags. AS is just the tool. Of course it is a great tool."

This is quite true but it leaves out too much that the asker wants to understand, so let's go over it more carefully.

"It could have been done on paper, etc"
Yeah, but that would involve drawing, clean up, careful registration, inking, painting, color-correction, filming, and editing.
All kinds of expensive, specialized mechanical gadgets and a huge, more expensive, army of skilled workers.

"AS is just the tool"
No, it's more than just a tool. Vector animation this powerful annihilates most of those middlemen.
We used to say, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
The goal of two-and-a-half-D and 3D modern animation software is, effectively, to say: "At Sundance, no body knows you're working in a garage (until you tell them)."

heyvern was also right when he said, "It comes down to skill baby, skill," but again, there's more we can add.
I sense that this is a user who won't be satisfied with simple sketches of talking turkeys or (to use today's dreariest visual cliche) baby dolls with bleeding eye sockets.
I suppose that he wants to achieve something beautiful.
Maybe he wants to do small and do-able, but it has to be stirring.
For him, I would suggest the alternative I'm researching: rotoscoping.

To recap, AS is about moving vector points in time. The program offers three ways to do this:

1. Move specific vector points manually on each frame. This is "point to point."
2. Move groups of vector points with a computer assist, the "bone."
3. Load an updated vector shape independently into each frame - "frame to frame" animation.

The third option is mentioned in the Help file as supported and feasible, but not strongly recommended.
It's said that other programs are better at this than AS.
I find this interesting because of some of the implications of rotoscoping...

Can we get some clarification about this matter?

And does this help?
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Rasheed
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Post by Rasheed » Wed Jan 10, 2007 7:39 pm

As the first two points you mention (point-to-point and bone animation) are sufficiently covered in the basic tutorial that comes with the software, I will try to concentrate on the third point, frame to frame animation.

The pro edition of AS has a feature called switch layers. A switch layer is bone layer which has an extra animation channel, the Switch Layer channel. What this channel lets you do is to switch between the child layers. The child layers can be any of the possible layers in AS: Vector, Image, Group, Bone, Switch, Particle, 3D, and Note.

For rotoscoping only two types of layers are interesting: vector and image. Vectors can be done within AS, but images have to be done outside AS.

If you use vector layers, there is an interesting feature called switch interpolation. This means that if the number of points within two switched vector layers is the same, those points will be translated from the positions in the first vector layer to the next. However, there are a couple of caveats:
  1. the points are identified by the order in which they are placed on the vector layer, and NOT by the position in the vector mesh
  2. the translation is linear, and not along a curve, as in bone animation
You can solve these problems as follows. For (1):
  • make copies of the same vector layer and modify the points' positions to fit each key frame to be rotoscoped
  • use interpolated switch layers within a switch layer, and create
    • halfway morph from one frame to the other in one switch layer
    • morph from the halfway to the other frame in the other switch layer
    In this case, you can use different point meshes for each switch layer. It is also the only method available to use switch interpolation if the point count and/or point order is different between layers.
For (2): Use several breakdowns (tweens) to simulate an arcing motion.

Of course, you may decide not to use switch interpolation and the techniques I mentioned earlier in this post, and, instead, draw each frame of the animation as a separate vector layer, which you put into a switch layer, and animate by switching layers. This is the most accurate, but also the most elaborate (read:time-consuming) and error-prone method. In most cases, point to point animation will be less of a hassle, although you then have to deal with "hidden surface removal" by hand, meaning that if something goes out of view, you, the animator, have to use techniques to accomplish that. Search for "head turn" to see some of the techniques used.
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Rotoscoping workflow

Post by human » Wed Jan 10, 2007 10:31 pm

Rasheed, thanks for the new information, and it's well written.

You're talking about animating frame to frame as something difficult, though, and it seems to me that rotoscoping is precisely about getting the frames with a relatively low cost of effort.

Here's how I envision the workflow:

1. Radically simplify the video content using the appropriate video filters
2. Export video to a sequence of bitmap files.
3. Radically simplify the bitmap further using the appropriate Photoshop (or Paint Shop) filters
4. Manually edit the resulting frames as necessary
5. Vectorize the frames in Illustrator
6. Import the vector sequence into AS for adding camera control, backgrounds, effects, etc

So I think the difference between what you said and what I'm thinking is my step 4, the "manual edit" step. Having barely used my AS Pro, I would rather edit bitmaps because it's what I know.

You seem to hint that the power of vector tools in AS such as the Magnet would cause you to do that kind of work in AS.

Can we have some more wisdom on this?
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Post by slowtiger » Thu Jan 11, 2007 9:49 am

Rotoscoping to vectors is as tedious and time-consuming as it was in the old Fleischer days. I've just read an article in the NY Times which said that every minute of Richard Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly" took 300 hours to do, with preparing footage, do the vecorizing and rotoscoping and the a lot of clean-up. (Don't nail me on the numbers, it's not online any more and unfortunately I didn't keep a screenshot (it was hidden in a Flash presentation). It was here http://www.nytimes.com/glogin?URI=http: ... 7DybDwNQ7D)

Most graphic designers I know would do the vectorising in Flash - if they are not lucky and still keep a copy of Streamline which seems to be the best tool for that job.
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Rasheed
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Post by Rasheed » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:35 am

The question could be, if you use life-action as your template, why bother to animate from the ground up? I believe programs like TVPaint or Mirage are able to modify life footage and add to it, in pixels. Just a thought.
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Post by Freakish Kid » Thu Jan 11, 2007 9:25 pm

@ Uncarved,

Yes we really do use AS!

We use a variety of techniques with the software. We always go for a pose to pose animation and that basic pose is done with the bone system.

We then add point animation to make it look like traditional animation.

Every animator that works for us has many years expierience with 2d drawn animation.

@ Human,

The only people that are eliminated in the process of the use of the software are people who really add no substance to a production. With having a smaller team it is more focused both financially and creativley. It is now not hard to produce a feature film with 15-20 people something that was nigh on impossible before.

Most people who are great at animation, be it layout, clean up, ink and paint etc still have jobs with this software approach. We hire great clean up artists to build the models cause these people have a trained eye for detail and its that that produces perfect models every time. People can be taught relatively fast how to use a piece of software (our training period is 3 - 4 weeks) it takes years of industry expierience to learn how to make an animated film properly and thats the expirience we look for.

@ Rasheed

We're in the process of designing a small book of tutorials, it'll include the process of producing a digital animated short with AS. From Script to screen.

The book will also be an Art of, incorperating all of GreyKid's work. They'll also be 2 dvd's with the book. One with all our work and the other with working files.

Obviously this is a massive job that will take some time to produce but it'll be worth it when it's finished.

GK
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Rasheed
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Post by Rasheed » Thu Jan 11, 2007 9:59 pm

GreyKid Pictures wrote:We're in the process of designing a small book of tutorials, it'll include the process of producing a digital animated short with AS. From Script to screen.

The book will also be an Art of, incorperating all of GreyKid's work. They'll also be 2 dvd's with the book. One with all our work and the other with working files.

Obviously this is a massive job that will take some time to produce but it'll be worth it when it's finished.
I think that a lot of animators and would-be animators on this forum will be interested in that behind the scenes book. Looking forward to it :)
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Post by uncarved » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:49 am

I very much appreciate the responses to my question and especially inspired by the answer from GreyKid Pictures.

I too look forward to making use of the tutorials and support materials that GK are producing. I hope their production goes smoothly.
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