Evaluation of a Master Thesis

Title: The Creative Process, Journey to First Animation

Author: Jenna Seikkula

University: Aalto-University School of Art

Department: Design and Architecture Department of Media Visual Communication

Year: 2017

Keywords: Animation, Creative process, Motivation, Problem solving, Failure, Tokyo

Level of design

This Master Thesis looks very clean. If I had to guess, I would say the University has their own template for students to use for their thesis or papers and such. It could even be a Latex template. This makes it look very organized and consistent and I think is very helpful and time saving because you don’t need to think and stress over typography. layout and style.

Degree of innovation

The empirical part of this thesis is about a short animation that the author did during her studies. It took her about 2 years to develop the topic and six months for the whole production. The theoretical part focuses on the whole creative process and the motivation and research of the animation.

Since it is a classical short 2D frame-by-frame animation inspired by japanese anime and Disney movies I would say it is not very innovative. She even used Photoshop as a tool for drawing and animation.

Independence

The author did everything herself, except the music. This is a lot of work, and she talks about the motivation and the process in her thesis. She also mentions her struggles and how to finish a big project on your own. Which I think is very interesting and personal. I like how she reflects on herself and the project and writes about it.
Outline and structure

The structure is very clean and every chapter has a connection, to her work and you can see the influence and the thought process behind it.

Degree of communication

It is very easy to understand, and she describes and explains everything. I think she also didn’t use any abbreviations or acronyms.

Scope of the work

The work consists of 77 pages, including title page, Table of Content, Bibliography and references.

Orthography and accuracy

I did not notice anything. The thesis was very clear and easy to read and understand.

Literature

The Bibliography is quite short and consists of only 7 entries. There are some books and articles about animation, creativity and even motivation and problem solving. After that she lists all the references she has used or discussed.

Jenna Seikkula’s Master Thesis – Bo’s first robot

https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi/bitstream/handle/123456789/27134/master_Seikkula_Jenna_2017.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Hybrid Animation: Problems combining 2D & 3D assets

Combining multiple media can lead to various problems along the way. It is important to work out a pipeline and document the steps and figure out the issues. The following steps might help with that:

1. Style matching

In previsualization stage, it is important to experiment with different styles, methods and combinations of media. An try out multiple software and drawing methods and effects to compare and see which combination can achieve the style you are looking for.

Ideally everything should be documented well enough to retrace every step later on. Something that doesn’t fit the current project, may still become useful for the next one.

2. Registration

When one object touches another one in a scene it is called registration. In the case of hybrid animation it is a 2D asset touching a 3D asset, the registration line is where they have contact. Each combination of elements requires a different pipeline to obtain the best registration. It depends on which element “leads the movement”, this will decide if the 2D or 3D element need to be done first.

3.    Frame rate and image format

Frame rate and image format seem very obvious but shouldn’t be overlooked. With combining media, there are different softwares used and all should agree upon the same frame rate and format of the images throughout the pipeline.

4.    Timing

When animating a character holding an object it is difficult to make sure the object moves in sync with the hand. In traditional hand drawn animation the object would be drawn on a seperate piece of paper and an x-sheet(exposure sheet) or timing chart is used to know the timing and where the keyframes are. Because this method is rarely used in 3D it makes the process easier when combining 2D and 3D.

5.    Image sizes

The last concept for a 2D/3D pipeline is the image size. When combining various media like scanned images, rendered images, digitally drawn and maybe photography, they all should have the same resolution and image size. Sometimes throughout the production, in the rough stages of animation, different file sizes are used to speed up the workflow. But even then it is important to use the same smaller res sizes to have the correct ratio so the registration stays consistent. This will increase the productivity.

In production, at least three file sizes can be used, depending on the studio there may be more:

1.    Final res. The final render of animation assets that are then composited together (for example, 1280 x 720, image ratio 1 : 77, pixel ratio: 1).

2.    Mid res. Used for double-checking registration and getting animation approved (for example, 960 x 540, image ratio 1 : 77, pixel ratio: 1).

3.    Low res. Used for initial scans and rough animation. This allows for memory savings and ease of use in 3D animation packages as reference (for example, 512 x 288, image ratio 1 : 77, pixel ratio: 1).

http://what-when-how.com/hybrid-animation-integrating-2d-and-3d-assets/hybrid-animation-the-main-problems-hybrid-animation-integrating-2d-and-3d-assets-part-1/

http://index-of.co.uk/Animation/Hybrid_Animation_Integrating_2d_and_3d_Assets.pdf

3D as reference for 2D animation

3D can be used as a basis to make shots a bit more clear and easier to understand when the storyboard is too rough.

Sometimes for more complex scenes, real people are used as reference for the movements. While this can give the animators an idea of performance, it’s still hard to imagine it from different angles and perspectives.

Yuri!!! on Ice – reference footage
Yuri!!! on Ice – previsualisation

To make the steps more efficient and reduce the time thinking while increasing the time for making, a rough 3D model can help. A 3D artist will take the reference footage and focus on the movement of the performer. After that some camera adjustments according to the instructions of the storyboard are made and also some basic planes for the background are created. This result is called previsualisation. It gives a rough idea of how the final product will look like. Even motion tracking can be used for this, which gives the animator even more accurate reference material. The animators can use the original reference footage and the previs to create something that is accurate to the original performance but also has its own value as an original animation. This will help the animator, but it is still just reference. The real magic comes of course later as a result of the animators technique.

Sources:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cm_Ip3SIy4
https://karice.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/p558/

2D/3D hybrid animation in anime

After watching the first season of the anime Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba), I wondered which studio produced it and how they did it. This anime uses both 2D and 3D animation, but in a way that both complement each other and do not feel distracting.

The studio behind it is ufotable, which became popular in 2011 with their adaption of the light novel series Fate/Zero. They were one of the first to integrate computer-generated graphics and effects without having it look out of place.

What sets ufotable apart from other studios?
They have their own digital effects team. Whereas most other studios outsource the digital work and compositing to other companies, ufotable’s strength is that the production, drawing and CG are all made in-house. If you outsource CG, you may have to wait a few days to discuss with the director or it may take days for a simple confirmation. Having everything at one place makes the connection between the teams easier and everyone can contribute ideas at every stage of the anime creation process.

“Water breathing” Preproduction preview using 3DS Max

When they started the work on Demon Slayer they first created a preview video as a mock up using CG to get a feeling for the development process. From there they examine concretely things like “what is this person good at” and “what the team can do” in the studio. Because the team has been working together for a long time, they can make a highly accurate strategy.

The “Infinite Castle” – Demon Slayer Episode 26

The background for the infinite castle in episode 26 was completely done in 3ds Max. For this scene everything was checked from the structure of the castle, the animation of the character and the camera movement and angles. Because the team members are working closely together, they can just call each other.

Each cut is carefully considered and some take about two months. It took almost 1 year to make the first episode.

3D model of the castle

When talking about this anime, there is one specific scene in episode 19 that is just incredible and I want to share this small break down bellow:
(Time: 7:23 – 9:42 )

Break Down of Demon Slayer’s Incredible Animation

Studio Ufotable digital team blog:
http://www.ufotable.info/

Interview with Autodesk “AREA JAPAN” about how the anime was made:
Part1: https://area.autodesk.jp/case/animation/kimetsu-01/
Part2: https://area.autodesk.jp/case/animation/kimetsu-02/


Additional Links:
https://blog.sakugabooru.com/2019/08/15/kimetsu-no-yaiba-the-power-of-ufotables-harmony/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYJ8Jgt8MwI

https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2019-08-28/interview-demon-slayer-producer-yuma-takahashi/.149177

https://www.cbr.com/demon-slayer-studio-ufotable-history/







Is 2D animation still relevant?

In my last blog post I talked about techniques and costs of 2D and 3D animation process. And compared the pros and cons. Now I want to look at future trends and if you should abandon 2D.

First of all, none of these two is better than the other. It depends on own preference and what look you want to achieve. Both techniques need different skills. 2D/hand-drawn animation requires a larger amount of illustrations, because every frame needs to be drawn, while 3D needs to be modeled and rigged so it can be manipulated. 3D doesn’t require drawing skills.

Is 2D animation dead?

Short example from the computer science world:
Machine Learning for example is so extremely popular nowadays because some companies like Google and Facebook decided to focus on that an put all their resources and money in this field. Other companies felt obliged to do the same, knowing they are not able to compete, but they needed to follow along in order to stay relevant.

The same has happened in animation. When companies like Pixar and DreamWorks started to do 3D and Disney decided to abandon 2D animation, that highly influenced the market. Companies push each other to a point where the technology and production costs are getting lower and lower with increasing demand. Even in live-action shows and movies, it is nowadays cheaper and faster to just use CGI. If you put a lot of money in the infrastructure, invest in render farms and dozens of PC workstations you are going to use them.

2D is a form of art it can still be profitably done. Since the early 2000s where many western studios stopped with the hand-drawn style, Japanese anime has become a leader for 2D animation. They value the tradition and the hand craft. ‘Your Name’ or its original title ‘Kimi No Na Wa’ made over $350 million world wide. This movie is a work of art. With its original story and incredible visuals it managed to attract a large audience.

Your Name – ©CoMix Wave Films Inc.

Fewer artists want to go for 2D animation because they don’t think it is worth it and more money is being made with 3D movies and video games.
But that doesn’t mean there is no demand for 2D anymore.

Future Trends

The demand for 2D/hand-drawn may not be in films but there is still a huge market in TV series, commercials, mobile games. Streaming services produce their own animated shows for kids and adults. Social networks like Youtube and Instagram are filled with independent creators. Also nowadays everything is getting niched down and more indie productions come out.

In the gaming industry we see how the technology evolves (ray-casting, better GPUs) and the trend is moving towards photorealism.
The technology is also evolving in animation but in a different direction. With the new possibilities 2D can also profit from that, like we saw in the movie ‘Klaus’.
I think the future is a mixture of 2D and 3D, taking the best of both worlds.

Sources:

1 https://www.cgspectrum.com/blog/2d-vs-3d-animation#:~:text=The%20main%20difference%20between%202D,skeleton%20that%20can%20be%20manipulated.

2 https://3d-ace.com/press-room/articles/2d-vs-3d-animation-which-style-winning-1

https://andyarttv.com/is-2d-animation-dead-this-is-what-really-happened/

https://study.com/academy/lesson/2d-animation-vs-3d-animation.html

https://www.animatorisland.com/why-2d-animation-should-be-abandoned-part-1/
https://www.animatorisland.com/why-should-2d-animation-be-abandoned-part-2-plus-why-not/?v=3a52f3c22ed6

https://www.bloopanimation.com/why-were-seeing-less-2d-animated-movies-and-why-they-wont-make-a-comeback/

2D vs 3D

If comparing 2D and 3D animation, there are a few things to consider, as the production steps and the process is quite different.

Techniques and Process

2D
It is achieved through sequencing. In the beginning an artist comes up with the animation concept and creates all of the unique drawings, which will be part of the animation. This set is then joined sequentially to create one second of animation. One second of animation includes typically 24 frames, where every 2 frames consist of a different drawing. The movement of the objects in the frame happens so quickly that it looks smooth to the human eye. Nowadays most animation is created through computer software instead of hand drawing. It makes the process faster and cheaper. Some popular software include Adobe Animate, Toon Boom Harmony, Adobe After Effects, and so on. 1,2

3D
The creation of 3D animation has different steps and involves many different skills. Where 2D is more artistic, 3D is a bit more mechanic.

The first step is the modeling. All 3D objects that are present in the animation are created using a 3D animation program. After that the objects are textured, in this step they get their colors and details.
The next step is the layout and animation. The models need to be rigged. A rig is like a skeleton, but with a more basic structure, that helps with the movement of the object. Then the background and setting are implemented and mechanics and changes are added. The last step is the rendering. The 3D objects, layout and mechanics are all combined and captured to create the completed product.
In larger companies, there would be dedicated artist for sketching and layout of the scene and characters, 3D modelers, Animators, all working on their part of the whole animation. In smaller companies or when doing it on your own, you need to be competent in every step of the pipeline. 1,2

Budget and Cost

2D animation is generally considered to be more affordable than 3D. 3D requires more specific software and is more resource-heavy in software and hardware. But in the longer run it might be not as expensive, because you can reuse models and changes in scenes are easier to make. In 2D you would need to do the whole process again, whereas in 3D you can simply reposition or change up the models, camera and lighting. 1,2

2D
Pros:
– easy to learn
– more artistic
– quicker to produce
– lower production cost
– not so resource-heavy


Cons:
– less dynamic
– less in demand
– less level of detail
– time consuming
– changes require a restart of the whole process

3D
Pros:
– 3D models can be reused
– changes are much faster
– more accurate movement
– higher demand
– more possibilities
– more realistic and greater detail


Cons:
– limited imagination
– more complicated
– resource-heavy (software, hardware)
– long lead times (more steps before you see your character)

Sources:

1 https://www.cgspectrum.com/blog/2d-vs-3d-animation#:~:text=The%20main%20difference%20between%202D,skeleton%20that%20can%20be%20manipulated.

2 https://3d-ace.com/press-room/articles/2d-vs-3d-animation-which-style-winning-1

https://fablestudios.tv/2020/02/17/the-pros-and-cons-of-2d-and-3d-animation/

Why Disney stopped making 2D Animation Movies

The last 2D-animated film from Disney was ‘The Princess and the Frog’, which premiered in December 2009, more than 10 years ago. After that Disney focused on 3D animation, but why?

Disney was famous for its traditional hand-drawn films. It started with their first feature film ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ and since then released a lot of Disney classics like ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘The little Mermaid’, ‘The Lion King’ and so on.
Throughout the 80s and 90s Disney was very successful, but with Pixar releasing ‘Toy Story’ in 1995 that changed. In the next years Pixar continued to beat Disney in the Box Office (table below).

Box Office sales comparison of Disney and Pixar Movies from the same years 1

With their new way of storytelling and animation, Pixar got more people in theatres. The competition for Disney got even worse with DreamWorks releasing ‘Shrek’, which had a box office of $484 Million. And Blue Sky also entered the game with ‘Ice Age’. Disney could not beat that and then in 2006, they bought Pixar.

The Disney animated films were not profitable anymore and when they bought Pixar, they kind of abandoned 2D animation. The money was a huge motivation for doing that. Other big companies saw that and also hopped on the CG train, because this is where the money is. It seems that the 1990s was kind of the death of 2D animated films, because in the 2000s even TV channels like Nickelodeon began to produce series with CGI.

Disney tried to get back to their 2D animations and their princess franchise with ‘The Princess and the Frog’, but afterwards in 2010 they really abandoned it. In 2013 they started laying off their animators. They removed value from their hand drawn animation work and started moving towards the computer animated work.

Disney is re-releasing their classics every few years for each new media. First it was VHS, then DVD and Blu-Ray. Now they are releasing remakes of their classics in live-action and CGI. If you look at the box office numbers for the 50 highest-grossing animated films, you find only two 2D animated movies, which are ‘The Lion King’ from 1994 and ‘The Simpsons Movie’.

Top 50 highest-grossing animated films 2

If 2D animation is really dying, than it is not Pixar’s fault, but Disney did greatly contribute to that. Disney is such a big company and has a huge influence in the business. After buying Fox, their market share grew even more and other companies are following that direction to not be left behind.

Source:

1https://andyarttv.com/is-2d-animation-dead-this-is-what-really-happened/

2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-grossing_animated_films

https://www.rotoscopers.com/2015/02/27/former-disney-veteran-explains-why-big-studios-have-abandoned-2d-animation/

https://chipandco.com/walt-disney-animation-studios-is-open-to-reviving-2d-animation-366448/#:~:text=The%20last%202D%2Danimated%20film,paired%20with%20an%20enriching%20story

https://www.vulture.com/2019/07/disney-animated-movies-what-happened-to-them.html

https://screenrant.com/disney-no-2d-animated-movies-future/#:~:text=That%20is%20quite%20innacurate.,being%20too%20difficult%20to%20make.&text=Hand%20drawn%20animation%20from%20Disney%20will%20return%20eventually.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/mar/07/disney-hand-drawn-animation

Is Netflix’s ‘Klaus’ 2D or 3D?

The Oscar-nominated Netflix movie ‘Klaus’ was a big surprise and after watching it, a lot of people, including myself, were wondering, if it was 2D, 3D or even a mixture of both. It is in fact 2D. The characters are hand drawn and only a few 3D props and environments for camera animation were used.
This makes it quite the opposite to the movie ‘Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse’, which is a 3D animation film where the environments, props and characters were modeled, rigged and animated using 3D software. The 2D look was achieved by combination of lower keyframe rate, cell shader, color/image enhancement etc.

Before – © The SPA Studios
After – © The SPA Studios


The animation studio responsible for ‘Klaus’ is ‘The SPA Studios’ founded by Sergio Pablos. The studio credits include: Despicable me, RIO, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan, and many more. So some of their clients include Netflix, Universal, Blue Sky, Dream Works, Warner and Disney.

The real magic of the movie ‘Klaus’ happens within the lighting process. The 3D look was achieved by a combination of M.O.E. (a texturing/rendering software by the french studio ‘Les Films du Poissons Rouge’) and KLaS (Klaus Light and Shadow) a shading and lighting software based on Houdoo (a 2D animation software from ‘Les Films du Poissons Rouge’ ).

Houdoo and MOE software – Les Films Du Poisson Rouge

I found an interview with Sergio Pablos, the director from Klaus explaining the journey behind this movie, which I will summarize here:

The Quest and the Solution

Sergio Pablos wanted to demolish the limitations that traditional 2D animation has. He searched for a solution and one of his employees had an incredible proof of concept, but it was a time consuming process. He reached out to Les Films Du Poisson Rouge, who had been developing tools for 3D and 2D for a long time. Les Films Du Poisson Rouge figured out how to derive a tracking system from drawn lines. Not just vector drawn lines, but even bitmap lines. They created a intuitive tool that works in real-time and allows artist to a great amount of work in less time. They called the tool ‘Klaus Light and Shadow’.

The Process before Lighting

The storyboard was made with Storyboard Pro from Toon Boom, because they could go straight to layout. The layout was done digitally on tablet and they did split it depending on whether it was a 2D or 3D shot. From there the animation was done directly in Toon Boom Harmony. No tricks and no puppet animation. It was all hand-drawn frame by frame.

3D shot – © Sergio Pablo Animation Studios

After that it would go to ink and paint where they would treat the lines. This was a tricky part as they only kept lines where they were required to convey information. A lot of outlines were removed because the information was given through the contrast and the value of the colors, a line wasn’t needed anymore. Some internal lines, for example in hands or face were kept. They were very selective about which lines are needed how many could be replaced with shadows later on.

Progression Shot
Progression shot

The Lighting

They had a color bible for the whole film and also a color script. They needed to have a lighting reference for the characters and background that was very cohesive to the background painters and the lighters on the characters were drawing from the same source.

The lighting process was about breaking down the lighting of a scene in a convincing way. Up to eight layers of lighting were introduced, that could be anything from ambient occlusion, sub-surface scattering, rim light, specular for the eyes, bounce light, etc. Each one of those layers would have a set of shapes that the artist would create underneath the layer for the shot. They went through the layers using a tracking system that was part of the tool from Les Films Du Poisson Rouge. Then the layers are merged together to get the ‘baked’ lighting look.

The next step is the texturing with M.O.E. This tool allows you to pick any painterly style like wash, watercolor or oil, and decide the behavior and size of the strokes and apply it to the image. With this, they added a subtle level of grain that actually travels with the character.

After that, all the elements go to compositing. In this step, the compositor decides for every shot how much texture is applied to each of the shapes.

Lighting time-lapse with process explanation
Lighting time-laps with explanation

3D Elements

The 3D elements were made in Maya. Sometimes elements, like the reindeer, were in 3D and sometimes they were 2D. The team decided whether an element would be rigged or if it would be easier to do in 2D. Sometimes they would animate a reindeer in 2D but the fur would look wrong, so they take the fur out and paint on top of that.

2D-3D integration test

Source:
http://lesfilmsdupoissonrouge.com/logiciels/?lang=en
https://beforesandafters.com/2019/11/14/heres-what-made-the-2d-animation-in-klaus-look-3d/
https://www.insider.com/how-netflixs-klaus-made-2d-animation-look-3d-2020-1
https://www.animatorisland.com/3-reasons-why-klaus-is-a-game-changer-for-animation/?v=3a52f3c22ed6
https://lrmonline.com/news/trailer-klaus-impresses-with-its-2d-like-3d-animation/
https://www.nutscomputergraphics.com/en/klaus-the-birth-of-the-2d-animated-netflix-movie-which-looks-like-3d/

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – A 3D Comic Book

Into the Spider-Verse is the first-ever animated Spider-Man feature. It was released in 2018 and has won multiple accolades for best animated film. The creators have used multiple artistic techniques to bring this film to life while staying with comic book print styles, which makes it very unique and different.
This movie basically looks like a comic book that moves and I want to talk about the techniques that were used to give this 3D movie the typical 2D style.

Some facts

  • It took one week to animate just one second of footage. It usually takes a week for four seconds. It actually took them one year to get just 10 seconds they were happy with.
  • The film had 177 animators on staff at one point. More than twice the typical animated film. To put that in perspective, the original “Toy Story” had just 27 animators.
  • The scene in the dorm room which features all spider characters and only lasted a couple of minutes took 2 months to animate due to different techniques used for each individual spider character

The movie is directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman and produced by Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Christina Steinberg. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are also the creative minds behind the films CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS and THE LEGO MOVIE.

Sony Pictures Imageworks wrote an article about the creation of this film and the techniques and styles, which I want to include:

“Making the first-ever animated Spider-Man feature was a chance to do something new and exciting, an invitation to look for a new visual style inspired by the look of comic books. The entire look of the film was driven by artist’s intention in which the design and style was given more importance than accuracy or realism. Artists were encouraged to experiment and try new ideas without concern for how it might break the pipeline. The hand of the artist is visible in every shot including imperfections.”

Image 001
© Sony Pictures Animation
Visual FX Breakdown

“Various new techniques were developed including the rigging and animating of facial line work, 2D hand-drawn effects and stylized rendering. Line work became a crucial part of the production, and also aided in linking the film to an illustration and comic book style.” 

Image 013
Miles Morales – © Sony Pictures Animation

“Line work became a crucial part of the production, and also aided in linking the film to an illustration and comic book style. Our creative challenge was to find a balance between heavily stylized design and emotional appeal. The combination of drawing and then animating facial lines was vital to how expressive our characters could be.  It was these strong emotional character performances that allowed us to push the style and look of the entire film.”

Embracing Imperfections

“In order to do this we developed a new line drawing system in which an artist could draw lines on a character the way an illustrator might. These lines were then converted to geometry and rigged for animation. Other lines that were based on geometry such as those drawn on the nose, ears and hands were more predictable and required less hand keyframe animation.  This predictability allowed us to use machine learning algorithms to automate the animation of these lines.”

Image 023
Peter Parker – © Sony Pictures Animation
Image 024
Miles Morales – © Sony Pictures Animation

“The use of line work was used throughout the film. Even hard surface models had lines built into them, and often additional lines were added to the environments in compositing.”

Image 025
Spidey Sense – © Sony Pictures Animation
Image 007
© Sony Picture Animation

“Traditional CG animated film is animated on ones — 24 images, each held for one frame, for every one second of film. In order to achieve the graphic and punchy style, animation broke from the convention and embraced stepped animation, or animating on twos.  When animating on twos, every image is held for two frames, with only 12 individual images used for every one second of film. The impact of animating on twos, especially for fast-paced action, provided the desired illustrated visual style for the film, where each frame appeared as its own distinct image, like a panel in a comic book.” 

Different Animation Styles

“To deliver the best representation of comic books brought to animated life, we had to break and overhaul our way of looking at things. It led us to frame modulation to get this slick, crispy version of pop art. When we make Spider-Man in live action, it’s hard to put Spider-Man in these fantastic comic book poses because we had to deal with the world real physics.”

“Single “comic book” panel frame holds were cut into sequences. Comic book sound effects were incorporated into shots and comic panels made out of webbing show montages and background action.”

Image 017
“Comic book” sequence – © Sony Pictures Animation
Image 022
“Comic book” sequence – © Sony Pictures Animation
Animating Miles

“The final look of the film was also inspired by comic book printing techniques and made liberal use of half-toning and line hatching.  The Spider-Verse isn’t traditional CGI, but rather a slew of new rendering styles mixed in with hand-drawn elements. “

Image 009
Rendering style – © Sony Pictures Animation

“Some of the illustrative principles that went into the rendering and compositing include: graphic shapes, bold colors, strong composition and simplified design.  The look strives for the raw emotion of illustration.  In this attempt, soft gradations are avoided in favor of halftoning and line hatching – again similar to older comic book printing.  The rendering of materials is also heavily stylized.”

FX Visual Design

“Even the cinematography was reconsidered for the film. Avoiding softness in the film meant avoiding using a traditional lens blur for the camera focus and depth of field (DOF).  One alternative type of camera lens focus (or DOF) was inspired by the comic book offset printing process where the (often accidental) mis-registering of the color passes can make an image look out of focus.”

Image 002
“Motion blur” – © Sony Pictures Animation

“Our decision to avoid traditional motion blur meant that we would need to solve the strobing issues caused by fast movement in other ways.  The animation team helped solve strobing of fast moving characters using a mix of techniques including smearing the geometry, drawing speed lines and even the use of multiple character limbs. “

Image 004
Movement and “motion blur” – © Sony Pictures Animation

“The FX team also added motion lines to fast moving objects and these speed streaks helped reduce the strobing effects while also imparting an extra sense of speed. “

Image 021
Motion lines and speed streaks – © Sony Pictures Animation

“In keeping with the graphic, stylized look of the film, even the FX department made use of hand drawing techniques.  Rather than relying solely on physically based simulations, the FX team created a reusable library of 2D hand drawn FX elements often also animated on twos.  These hand drawn elements were combined with traditional 3D simulations to create a distinctly illustrative feel for FX elements such as explosions and fire. “

Image 016
Special effects – © Sony Pictures AnimationImage 014Special effects – © Sony Pictures Animation

“Another great example of stylized FX in the film is the multidimensional glitching effects the collider has unleashed by messing with the multiple Spider-Verses.  To create this glitching effect, the animation is rendered through multiple camera angles and each is rendered with a unique look.  A screen space cell pattern is used to combine these multiple renders into a 3D fracturing of the Spider-Verses.”

Image 018
Special effects – © Sony Pictures Animation

“The overall comic book aesthetic of halftoning and hatching was carried over to the environment’s as well. The nature of the new aesthetic required more collaboration among people working on different parts of the pipeline. The new techniques required much trial and error, and many failed experiments fell by the wayside before the filmmakers found the groundbreaking look.”

Image 012
© Sony Pictures Animation
Image 011
© Sony Pictures Animation
Building New York City
Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse Gallery 14
Spidey Characters from the different universes – © Sony Pictures Animation
Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse Gallery 16
Multiple Spider-Verse characters – © Sony Pictures Animation

https://www.imageworks.com/our-craft/feature-animation/movies/spider-man-spider-verse

https://www.businessinsider.com/spiderman-spider-man-into-spider-verse-animated-frame-rate-marvel-stan-lee-2019-2?r=DE&IR=T

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/25/movies/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-animation.html

https://www.vulture.com/2019/01/how-spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-changed-animation.html#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20film’s%20general%20animation%20style,that%20their%20motion%20looks%20jittery.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lukethompson/2019/03/12/how-spider-man-into-the-spider-verses-animation-style-came-to-be/?sh=63cda866465f

https://www.jamesphang.co.uk/blog/2019/3/27/spider-verse-animation

https://www.bloopanimation.com/spiderman-into-the-spider-verse-2d-or-3d/

https://vancouversun.com/entertainment/movies/sony-pictures-imageworks-animation-supervisor-josh-beveridge-talks-about-spider-man-into-the-spider-verse

https://www.awn.com/animationworld/creating-stylized-universe-sonys-spider-man-spider-verse

https://www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/if-its-not-broke-break-it-sony-imageworks-renegade-approach-to-spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-167321.html

http://www.vfxvoice.com/imageworks-artists-break-the-mold-to-create-an-alternate-spider-verse/

https://www.indiewire.com/2018/12/spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-breaking-the-visual-rules-of-animation-1202027410/

History of Animation – Part 2

1960-1980s
The Television Era

The animation industry began to adapt to the fact that television continued its rise as the entertainment medium of choice for American families. Studios created many cartoons for TV, using a “limited animation” style. By the mid ‘80s, with help from cable channels such as The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, cartoons were getting omnipresent on TV.

1960 – The Flintstone

In the ’50s cartoons were considered children’s entertainment, but William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s shows became a surprise hit with adult audiences. The surprise success of The Huckleberry Hound Show, featuring Yogi Bear, inspired the duo to create an adult-oriented cartoon series. The Flintstones became the first animated series on prime-time television. Fred and Wilma Flintstone were also the first animated married couple ever shown on American television in the same bed together.

The cartoon was the first to include laugh tracks and focus on family issues that got resolved with laughter by the end of each episode, and it would create the template for animated sitcoms that The Simpsons ran with decades later to become an animation juggernaut.

The Flintstones, like most of Hanna-Barbera’s productions, made use of looping “limited animation.” The animators kept characters’ hands at their sides. They looped animation of Fred’s feet as he served as the motor of his own car. Characters passed across the same backgrounds over and over again. They saw this technique’s potential to save serious time and money.

The Flintstones – ©Hanna Barbera Productions

1961 – One Hundred and One Dalmatians

This was the first full feature animated film Disney made using xerography.

Xerography is a process that eliminates hand-inking the outlines of the characters on each cel. Instead, the drawings were printed directly onto the cels, saving a massive amount of time and labour. A direct result of this process are the very clear and bold lines.

101 Dalmatians – ©Walt Disney Studios

1972 – Fritz the Cat

Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz the Cat was the first X-rated animated feature successfully released in the US. It is also one of the most successful independently-produced animated films of all time, grossing over $90 million worldwide.

Frith the Cat – ©Fritz Productions

1980 – today
Modern Era

The CGI (computer generated imagery) revolutionized animation. A principal difference of CGI animation compared to traditional animation is that drawing is replaced by 3D modeling, almost like a virtual version of stop-motion. A form of animation that combines the two and uses 2D computer drawing can be considered computer aided animation.

Throughout the 1980s, Disney started using computers to animate scenes in hand-drawn films like The Black Cauldron and, especially, The Great Mouse Detective.

Japan emerged on animation’s world stage in the 1980s in a big way. Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the SkyMy Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service, with their wide-eyed and wider-mouthed characters, pretty much charmed anyone who saw them. And Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies is arguably one of the most moving war movies ever made.

1988 – Who framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit revitalizes the industry when it proved theatrical animation made primarily for adults could be quite profitable.

The first feature film to have live-action and cartoon characters share the same screen. Animation has come a long way since The Enchanted Drawing!

Roger Rabbit is also a major milestone in animated history because of the sheer number of characters and assets from different studios that made an appearance, like Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Betty Boob, Woody Woodpecker and many more!

Who framed Roger Rabbit? – ©Walt Disney Studios, Touchstone Pictures,  
Amblin Entertainment

1993 – Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park mixed animatronics, stop-motion and CGI to create the most photo-realistic animated creatures ever before seen on screen.

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), the visual-effects studio behind these prehistoric creations, took a year to create just 4 minutes of computer generated dinos.

Jurassic Park – ©Universal Studios
Jurassic Park – ©Universal Studios

1995 – Toy Story

Just 2 years after Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, Pixar came out with the first entirely computer generated feature film. It had full model articulation and motion-control coding to bring Andy’s toys to life, a real breakthrough in 3D animation which secured Pixar’s position as the studio to beat.

Toy Story was also the first animated film nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay, showing how animation was beginning to be recognised and respected as entertainment, rather than just for animation-related accolades.

Toy Story – Pixar Animation Studios – © Walt Disney Pictures

2002 – Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The second instalment of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is remarkable for many reasons, not least of which is the motion capture and CGI work that went into creating Gollum.

Whilst the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park were highly accomplished elements that looked right at home alongside live-action stars, Gollum was the first real character that showed the world what motion capture and CGI was capable of. A fully computer generated character could appear alongside actors and it looked amazing.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – © New Line Cinema

2009 – Avatar

The next milestone in animation history came from James Cameron’s Avatar featuring real actors in completely computer generated worlds. They used CGI and motion capture techniques bringing the world of Pandora to life in 2D and 3D.

2016 – Your Name

Your Name., Shinkai’s 2016 breakout film became the highest-grossing Japanese film when it first premiered. From its photorealistic backgrounds to its animation, writing, and sound design, Your Name. is a gorgeous film from front to back.

Your Name – © CoMix Wave Films Inc.

2018 – Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, was a thrilling revitalization of the increasingly repetitive superhero movie genre. It’s also groundbreaking thanks to its creative approach to 3-D animation, mixing the styles of hand-drawn 2-D, and even the Ben-Day dot texture of classic comic-book printing.

I will go more into detail with this movie in another blog entry.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – ©Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation

https://www.hollywood.com/movies/animation-milestones-57280248/#/ms-2660/10
https://www.awn.com/animationworld/milestones-animation-industry-20th-century
https://history-of-animation.webflow.io/
https://www.fudgeanimation.com/2018/11/the-evolution-of-animation-a-timeline/
https://www.vulture.com/article/most-influential-best-scenes-animation-history.html