Monday, December 8, 2008

Pencil Tests

So, I'm half way through animating the second episode of "Ronin Dojo Community College DX: The Digital Pirates of Dark Water Saga", and I thought I'd do a little update and post some pencil tests.

For those of you not in the know, pencil tests are when you shoot your key frames and roughs to test out timing or see how the movement is looking. For example, here's a rough pencil test where the character drops a spool of DVD-Rs and vomits.

Back in the olden days, like the late 1800's when animation was confined to giant daguerreotype flip-books of Confederate soldiers rotting on battlefields, they couldn't do pencil tests. But with today's technology, it's easy.

If you have a shitty video camera and a Mac, you can use a program called Framethief. It allows you to grab single frames from the camera feed and then play them back. The trial version is all you'll need if you're just doing pencil tests. If you're doing some stop motion stuff, you might need to get the full version so you can insert frames and stuff.

In college, we used these devices called Lunchboxes to do pencil tests, but they're really expensive and require a camera and monitor so you might as well not bother. I just mentioned them because the name is funny.

So for the new episode, I was working on this shot where a character walks while rolling up his shirt sleeve and grabs Barry. Generally, I try to keep my characters standing in one spot whenever possible so that I can save time on animating walks and runs and such. If a character must run or walk- I usually pawn the shot off to Matt. This practice has built up a phobia in my mind of animating any sort of foot movement, and as a result my characters move like they have their feet nailed to the ground. So when I got to this shot of a dude walking around and doing stuff, I got scared. This is how I coped.

First I video taped my self walking around and being angry, to see what exactly the movement would look like. I won't post these pictures because I look gross and ugly in them. So let's just pretend this is what those looked like.

Next I broke down the movement into key frames and shot a pencil test.

Then I did my inbetweens to fill out the motion.

I also brought the PICT sequence into After Effects to futz around with timing, and I put a camera move on the shot. I find that camera pans and the like can help smooth out limited animation.

And there you have it. I overcame my phobia, and it only took hours upon hours of work.

Ambrotypes & Robot Rights


Stephen Sloan said...

Hey Ben,
I love to see behind the scenes animation stuff, especially for indie and web projects.
Great work, keep it up!

Ben said...

Thanks a lot Steve. I've been checking out your designs and animation and everything- it all looks great. I might have to ask you about your process at some point.

dmac said...

So that's how a bill becomes law...