Friday, June 27, 2008

More "Bad Luck Blackie" Analysis- beat timing

I was studying this clip from Tex Avery's Bad Luck Blackie some more and I noticed that the musical violin beats match the cat coming out of the hole onto the 'X', then looking left, then straight ahead and then the dog releasing the rope to start the violin cascade. They all seemed perfectly timed. So I used a digital metronome to tap out the beats for the cat's head turns. From that I found that the head turns were on (roughly) a 9 beat. (a new beat of timing for the action & music occurs every 9 frames. This comes out to 160 beats per minute musically). Anyhow I guessed that this 9 beat was consistent throughout the clip, so I set out to see if my guess was correct. Oddly enough it was. Here is the result...

right click and Save to download as Quicktime

I replaced the music with the 9 beat click track and added a flashing indicator to show where the beats are. It's hard to catch the beats exactly when you play it, but if you download the Quicktime movie and frame step through it you'll find that most of the actions for the character occur on the beat frame, or within 1 frame of it. And you'll notice that if you step forward every 9th frame has a new beat. Often you'll notice that a pose drawing (as opposed to an inbetween) for the dog hits right on the beat frame. This timing is so pervasive that it comes right down to the shot cuts as well. You'll notice that the cut from the two shot of the dog & cat to the falling safe happens right on a beat frame.

The director settled on the timing (and passed it along to the animator) before the music was composed and the motion was created to allow the composer the opportunity to match it perfectly without breaking stride in the musical beat. This connection between the motion and the music within a structure is a primary characteristic of classical golden age cartoons. This too seems to be a disappearing skill. Animators today generally don't think musically (unless we have pre-recorded music that we are animating to). Timing-wise we animators usually do whatever we want and leave the composer with a mish-mash of actions that lack a strong timing structure. While the shorts being done today are good, they lack this underlying structure for the most part. I think it'd be really neat to see this employed more- if only to know that the skill of musical timing to animation is alive and well.

Seriously cool stuff, man.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

APT Session 4: Sold Out!

Um... yeah.

That went fast.

25 minutes.

Dang. I'm humbled. Thanks for the interest. It's gonna be a fun time. If you missed this time, like I said before, don't worry. There will be another APT session this year. I'm sure we'll do some more after that, too.

Thanks again everybody!

APT Session #4: Registration is Open!

The title says it all. It's gonna be a fun session. I can feel it. :o)

If you want to be a student in the next APT session then now's your time to sign up. Got questions? Well, then check out my previous post on the topic, as well as the spiffy new FAQ. Between those you should well informed. Good luck!

Register HERE.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Scrambled Legs

Long time readers here know how much I enjoy the golden age theatrical short film (1930's through 1950's WB, Lantz, MGM, et. al. etc.). There's just something about that format that seemed to invite the animators to really go for the gusto in the gags, the animation, the motion, the exaggeration- all of it. It was in some ways technically less polished than Disney feature animation (now emulated by most film animation studios), but in terms of pure energy it was in a class by itself.

Consider this scramble "take" from Tex Avery's very funny Bad Luck Blackie. Just watch this and feel how perfect the cat's scramble fits the moment.

Bad Luck Blackie- scrambled legs from klango on Vimeo.

Who thinks like that today? Who even tries it? But this stuff is really cool! If we're not careful this would slip right by us. In fact it slipped by me the first 20+ times I watched the short. Then it jumped at me. "What the heck was that?!" So I framed through it and I was even more confused. Here are the drawings (shot on 2's, meaning each drawing is exposed for two frames on the film resulting in a 12 frames per second playback)

In motion those drawings absolutely work. We understand it as controlled chaos that has a rhythm and a flow that fits into the film so seamlessly that it easily escapes our notice. It makes perfect sense to our eyes. But laid next to each other in stillness these drawings defy easy analysis. From drawing to drawing the body parts go all over the place, seemingly with little sense of connection between where they were and where they are and where they are going. There aren't many well defined motion arcs going on here and pretty much no breakdowns between the extremes to give a sense of continuity of motion. Conventional wisdom might suggest that this should not work- but it does. How? Is it because it's shot on 2's that we give the motion some freedom to be interpreted more loosely? Does the simplistic coloring and cel painting contribute to the overall effectiveness of the action? Does the ludicrous nature of the 'story' cause us to let it slide? Would this only work in hand drawn animation? Could the same work in CG? What about stop-motion? Or cut out? Is the current trend for using animation on 1's (especially in CG) something that wouldn't allow such craziness? And is there anything in the TV limited animation realm of today that would preclude using this technique (other than the drawings being very 'off model')? I'm very curious as to what combination of ingredients are absolutely critical to making this work.

Sadly most of the old experienced practitioners of this animation style have passed on. How many animators today have a firm grasp on these techniques and can pass them along? For many of us this kind of analysis is the only way we can learn it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Now THIS is how you kick start a movie!

Check it out- free online....

'Kung Fu Panda' Exclusive Video: Opening Dream Sequence
'Kung Fu Panda' Exclusive Video: Opening Dream Sequence

I went to see KFP because I'd heard the buzz was really good. But I confess that was also a little wary. I don't think it's unfair to say that Dreamworks has had a uneven track record with their films (hey- it's not a knock. This stuff is hard to do and only the preternaturally lucky are able to whack it out of the park every single time.) Yet I also know they have made some films that are fun to watch, too. I just never know which it'll be, that's all. But folks were saying KFP was a far superior effort so I decided to take a look. I was unprepared for what followed. Trepidation was my traveling companion as I entered the cineplex that fateful night, yet after this opening trepidation was nowhere to be found. The cool part is that the rest of the movie didn't drop the ball after this- it just ran with it.

Kung Fu Panda is currently wrestling with The Incredibles for #1 spot on my CG animated films list. I don't know if it'll win that title, but it's putting up a good fight. Yeah, it's that good.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

APT Session #4 (July 2008) Info

OK, the time has come to let the world know the details regarding the next Animation Personal Trainer class. So let’s get to it!

  • APT Session #4 will begin July 14th, 2008 and will run until August 11th, 2008 (a little over 4 weeks).
  • Class size will be limited to the first 10 students to sign up. No exceptions.
  • The class will cost $995.00 USD payable in full at time of registration. No exceptions.
  • Registration will open at 12:00am midnight EST (GMT -05:00) Thursday June 26th. To register go to my online store here. But be sharp because this session will fill up very quickly.
  • Like previous APT classes, there won’t be any reel reviews to see if you are accepted or rejected for the class. It is a true open registration that is first-come first-served. I may change my mind on this policy for my next session, but for this class I’m keeping it open to any and all who care to join- regardless of experience.
  • If you don’t get in this session, don’t worry because there will be at least one more session in 2008.
  • If you have any questions, be sure to check out the APT FAQ.

Good luck and I look forward to a great session of learning character animation!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Changes coming to this site…

After a long while of letting the weeds grow around here, I’ve been working like a bee on getting the site & blog back to tip-top shape. A few things have been made very obvious to me. Such as…

  • I need to free myself from silly tasks that take a lot of time and effort for very little in return. I have other things in life that are important- things that I really want to do and I don’t want to waste my time fighting software, hackers, spammers, SQL databases, etc.
  • For the last two and a half years that I’ve used Wordpress I have found it to be a double edged sword. Wordpress is very flexible and powerful, but it requires a lot of upgrading to keep it safe and stable.
  • I’ve never had an easy time upgrading Wordpress. Each time I tried to upgrade it I ended up spending waaaay too much time on it. Often I wasn’t even successful. I don’t have the time or energy to play blog-software-geek anymore. I want a simple, reliable and hacker free blog solution that doesn’t require me to do a darn thing to keep it that way.
  • So I’m switching the blog back to the blogger service from Google. First, they’re not a fly by night. They’re huge. They have the bandwidth. They have the resources. They make it easy to do what I want to do (write posts) and they’ve gotten better at allowing me to customize the blog with widgets and stuff. But the biggest thing is they’ll keep the blog hacker, virus and bug free safe for my readers. And I don’t need to fart around with databases, PHP files, learning CSS and XML and all that other rot.
  • Wordpress doesn’t have an “export” option for posts and comments. At least not the version I have. So I will manually copy & paste all the posts from the last two and a half years. Sounds fun, huh?
  • Additionally I want a better hosting service for the site. My current service is fine, but I want phone support. I’ve found my new solution and so I’m making a change there as well.
  • Oh, and I’ll be redirecting my Feedburner RSS system to the new blog once everything’s all solid. So you folks following in your feed readers shouldn’t miss a beat.

Overall it’ll be a simpler, cleaner system for me to admin and it will be a faster, safer place for you to visit. There may be the occasional service hiccup over the next few days as we switch things around, but by the end of the week we should be all set.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Well, we finally made it back. The journey was crazy, my body is so sore from lifting furniture out of our old apartment in Brazil, hauling 15 overweight bags through 4 different airports, loading and loading U-Haul trucks and assembling way too much IKEA furniture. But we’re in our new home and things are getting settled. I’m looking forward to getting back to work. Lots of stuff to catch up on. Expect news about the next APT session in the next week to ten days or so.