Sunday, March 16, 2008

Entertainment...maybe Educational.....NOT!

OK so watch this short clip of a guy drawing at his lightbox and then we will talk.

Seems like a nice friendly guy and he can draw pretty good hey? But there is an issue here that as a teacher I am constantly at war with. This clip is a piece of entertainment, its function is to promote the product. As such its a great idea, and is replicated in many of the making of "doco's" that are standard fair with any DVD releases these days. Its fun to watch and we get to see how amazing the artist is, wondering at their mind blowing "illustration" skills.

The problem is that this bears absolutely no similarity to how traditional animators actually work. An animation drawing has to fit a lot more criteria than a single illustration, there is the relationship between this and the key frames either side, an emotional journey to consider, consistency with the previous and following scenes that may be animated by a whole other person just for starters.

This is why animators tend to work with messy quick sketches to start with (often referred to as the short hand version of the character), there is no point in putting in all that effort when there is a good chance things will have to be changed. There are two main things about this process that don't fit well with and entertaining promotion. One is that there are inevitably bad drawings produced on the journey to the right drawing. The second is that its time consuming. Now when your promoting something as amazing and fun, you don't want the audience to see any bad drawings and you don't want to make them wait to see the end result.

A few posts back I featured one of my drawings in a post about Anime, what you didn't see is that I reworked the drawings 13 times on my way to working out that pose. Here are some of the that were still lying around my studio.

When I was working at Disney Lion King 2 was released, and the local media were making quite a big deal about it having been made here in Australia. Arraignments were made for an animator to appear on Good Morning Australia where they would be expected to do a drawing of one of the characters in the film. There was some reluctance among the animators (they were mostly camera shy), but eventually one of the best animators was coerced into going. This guy was an amazing animator, really one of the best I've ever worked with. BUT even he, having just finished an 12 month or so stint of drawing little other than this one character had to confess that he couldn't just whip up an illustration of the character with all its finished details that he would feel comfortable showing to everyone on national TV. In the end he did a drawing in advance, they took it in and put it under a blank page on the lightbox, twiddled the camera settings so that you couldn't see the lines through the page, and he traced off one of his own character drawing on live telly.

HE WAS NOT CHEATING! Its just that animation is not the same thing as illustration. Animators focus on very different things when creating a pose. The only reason you might expect otherwise is because you have in effect been lied to by so many "entertaining" doco's about the animation process. You can't blame the artists, their skill sets are at odds with the marketing machine.

As a teacher I spend a lot of time trying to get students to stop illustrating and start animating. Drawing with simple shaped and forms with a focus on the movement and what it means instead of starting with the details. Which brings us back to out little video. I thought I'd have a go at getting all CSI on it. Look what happens when a shadow is cast across the page by the artist and I fiddle with the contrast in photoshop. Could that be the suggestion of another drawing under this one? Maybe or maybe not, but one things for sure, what you see in this clip bears very little resemblance to the way traditional animation is actually made.

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