Some Cartoon Animation Basics Flash

In the world of film, movies are shot at 24 fps (frames per second), while in video and 3D animation 30 fps is the norm. But for cartoons 12 to 15 fps is all that’s needed. The cartoon language of motion that we’ve all learned since childhood has taught our minds to expect this slightly jumpy quality of motion in a cartoon. As an animator, this is good for you, because 15 fps means half the amount of hand drawing work that 30 fps requires. It also means that you can get your cartoon done within your lifetime and maybe take a day off here and there. Actually, there are a lot of scenes in which as few as three drawings per second will suffice depending on how well you can express motion with your art or drawing. The rule of motion here is that things that move quickly require fewer frames (drawings), while things that move slowly require more frames. This is the main reason you’ll hardly ever see slow-motion sequences in cartoons. Broadcast cartoons have lots of fast-paced motion. Fewer drawings are produced more quickly and are less costly. These are very significant factors when battling budgets and deadlines.

Expressing motion and emotion
The hardest part of animation is expressing motion and emotion. Learn to do this well and it will save you time and make your work stand out above the rest. One of the best exercises you can do in this respect is to simply watch the world around you as though your eyes were a camera, clicking off frames. Videotaping cartoons and advancing through them at single-frame speed is also a revealing practice. (If you have digitizing capabilities, there’s nothing better than capturing a cartoon to your hard drive and then analyzing the results, as you get a more stable frame this way.)

If you employ Flash’s capability to import raster video, you can use actual video as your guide and even practice drawing on top of it. While this is good for getting the mechanics of motion down, it’s really just a start. Exaggerate everything! After all, this is what makes it a cartoon. Tex Avery, whom we mentioned earlier, created cartoons that revolutionized animation with overblown and hilarious motion.

Anticipation
Anticipation is a technique that is used when characters are about to do something, like take off running. Before lunging into the sprint, characters slowly back up, loading all their motion into their feet until their motion reverses and sends them blasting off in the other direction. In a more subtle form, this is shown below, when Weber takes flight from his perch on the pier.

Anticipation is used to accentuate Weber’s take off

Anticipation is used to accentuate Weber’s take off

Weight
Keep the weight of objects in mind. This helps to make your cartoon believable. A feather falls more slowly than the anvil. The feather also eases out (slows down) before landing gently on the ground, while the anvil slams the ground with such force as to make a gashing dent in it. Humor can play a role here by giving extreme weight to things that do not have it (or vice versa) thereby causing a surprise in the viewer’s preconceived notion of what should happen and this is the seed of humor.

Overlapping actions
Visualize a jogging Santa Claus, belly bouncing up and down with each step. Because of its weight, the belly is still on a downward motion when the rest of the body is being pushed upward by the thrust of the push-off leg. This opposing motion is known as overlapping actions. Another good example of overlapping actions is the scene in which the muscle-man bully catches Weber and wrings his neck. A good example of this is shown in Figure below. Note that, as the bully thrusts forward, Weber’s body reacts in the opposite direction . . . only to catch up just in time for the thrust to reverse and go the other way.

Overlapping actions are often used to accentuate movement.

Overlapping actions are often used to accentuate movement.

Blurring to simulate motion
Blurring is a technique or device that animators use to signify a motion that’s moving faster than the frame rate can physically show. In film, this manifests itself as a blurred out of focus subject (due to the subject moving faster than the camera’s shutter can capture). You may have already employed this effect in Photoshop, with the motion blur filter. In cartoon animation, blurring is often (and easily) described with blur lines. Blur lines are an approximation of the moving subject utilizing line or brush strokes that trail off in the direction that the subject is coming from. When used properly, this great device can save hours of tedious drawing. A good example of animated motion blur can be seen in Figure below, which shows the opening sequence in which the word Weber turns into Weber the pelican.

Blur lines simulate the effect of motion.

Blur lines simulate the effect of motion.


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