Realities of Real Time

Okay, so once again I’m going to wrench this sucker around to something that I find relevant so here goes. 2D in realtime.

I’m going to be totally honest and admit that ten minutes into reading things about real time and rendering and all that I went totally crosseyed and felt like I needed a good stiff drink. I felt like that one time, back in highschool where I somehow ended up in a programming class and knew that I was in waaaaaaaaaay over my head.

However more googling with an eye to staying away from the techno-nerds (all respect to the techno-nerds, but I speak French better than I speak that language, and believe me, I know about twenty words of French, and most of them are rude)

So, apparently I have already made assets for real time environments by making stuff for the games guys. Cool. This tri’s work was environments and whatnot, as already posted here and the stuff I did last tri with the Fallout Shelter knockoffs.

So instead of repeating that for the sake of it, I thought I’d look into how I could make these 2D elements look better for next time. Because really, I had no idea what I was doing except for; make it look pretty, I just took the specs from the people who did.

Firstly, apparently, my new favourite program (man I should be getting paid for all the spruiking I’m doing) apparently exports rigged characters straight from it to Unity which is super nice of it. I can’t link to the actual video itself, so the one in question is middle, second row from the bottom and looks pretty cool. It actually makes me want to try it which is something of an achievement.

There’s also apparently no standard size that assets should be which is also annoying but makes sense – it’s all highly dependent on the size style and programming of the game in question. Which yeah, of course self, you wouldn’t want to be making a pixel art background at 5000 pixels

(Well maybe you do, but there’s ways and means around that)

There’s some handy info out there, about best practices when working with studios, some of which is common sense (never, ever merge anything down or otherwise make it hard to change. It’s so much easier to change a colour somewhere if all you have to do is literally fill a layer with a colour, PNGS and transparency are your friends, etc etc)

Poking around on the Unity store is pretty damn useful too, just looking at the assets people have up for sale is pretty informative (and inspiring too – one more place to maybe make a few $$ once I get better at this kind of thing) . It seems the best thing to do is keep the palette unified (something I knew from digital painting) and keep all elements as separate as possible for maximum versatility.

So while I still don’t know much about the mechanics of actual real time, and zero on how to stick 3D in there somewhere, I now know enough at least, to be able to make 2D assets with a lot more confidence.


(not mentioned but really goddamn cool)!/content/36706–vector-20104


All rigged up and ready to go

So I thought I’d give my new favourite program a whirl, and see how well it works for rigging up a puppet character.

Turns out, pretty damn well. And it’s super easy.

(Well what I did was super easy. I wasn’t going for any fancy deforming stuff like DUIK in After Effects can do, I just thought I’d try my hand at a nice little cutout person)

chibi base done

So my original drawing, all dolled up and ready to go. I swear this one’s becoming my mascot. I must miss having pink hair or something.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 2.08.49 PM

Layer separation in Photoshop, ready for importing into ToonBoom

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 2.10.16 PM

And a rather terrifying separated up image of what’s going on with all those layers

I used this tutorial to get started, and it was incredibly helpful.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 2.47.01 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-28 at 2.50.28 PM (2)

Or it was at least, after I realised that it was using an older version of the program and some of the tools mentioned didn’t exist any more. Everything is contained in one Peg layer in the timeline, all nested under each other in accordance with how they’re linked (ie, hand to arm, arm to upper arm, arm to torso etc) and are named so that anyone else can animate with it.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 2.54.54 PM

Okay so she’s not perfect by any means, but the breaks are a photoshop problem, not a rigging problem and I’m enamoured with how easy it was to go from a static picture to a moveable puppet. Next time I’m going to use this as well as a few others to work out a better way to overlap the limbs so they don’t look like that, but they don’t have gaps when they move

To 3D or not 3D

3D. Threeee deeee. It sounds like a damn Star Wars robot.

It would be the Jar Jar Binks of the robot world, let me tell you.

Once again, for those in the back: I don’t do this 3D stuff. I like the way it looks, I greatly admire people who can create gorgeous art with it, and I would be very sad if I did not have the many many hours of entertainment 3D based media has given me over the years.

But really, I am getting nothing out of doing it. I have zero interest in the ultra detailed characters like in 3D movies or in the latest games, and while I adore the cute little low poly models of any number of excellent little indie games, it’s a solely aesthetic appreciation.  The time I spend struggling with whatever the hell that damn symmetry modifier is doing this time could be far more profitably spent drawing something.


So I’m going to attempt to wrestle this around so it’s relevant to me.

I’ve already linked to this tutorial, but I’ve also found this one, which works on roughly the same principal. I’ve downloaded Sketch Up to play around with, and I think it’ll work out pretty damn nicely for interior scenes. I need to get some more practice in it, plus, it’s one of those programs that need a mouse, and I don’t have one of those at the moment.

So I cracked open 3Ds Max. It’s been a while.

tree turn around

And after a reasonable amount of time, I uh, came up with a tree.

cheap nasty backgroundtree environ twotree environ

A little bit more playing left me with a smallish environment, with a couple of trees, stretched and rotated, and with a seriously squashed sphere as a ground layer. I messed around with the planes on the ground to make it look more uneven, before I rendered it out (or, you know, screencapped it out because faster)

And then came the fun stuff. It doesn’t really matter that there’s no texture, or that the lighting is rubbish, because it’s solely there as a base for painting over.

tut layer one

In photoshop, with the 3D layer at ~60% opacity

tut two

Sketch layer on top – I had a little trouble with scale on the person up the tree which was fixed. An interior would have shown off the potential for perspective work better, buuuut I may have been one and a half movies into a LoTR rewatch at this point, so foresty elves it was.

cheap nasty background copy

And the “finished” sketch over the top. By finished I definitely mean ‘needs at least six more refinement layers until it looks much better’ but for demonstration purposes, this is just fine.

Walk with Sound

Says it all on the tin really.

Thank you random dude in Scotland who so kindly recorded his footsteps going up and down a gravel path, and the equally kind person who recorded the sounds of the birds in their garden.

God knows I if I tried that, it’d be a mix of the crows, and some four letter words that even I won’t say, drifting in from the not so kind folk living next door.

I added the sound in ToonBoom which may not have been the best idea, given that apparently I could not get it to animate and play sound at the same time. Next time I’ll go back to my trusty old friend premiere and chuck it in there.

(really the hardest bit about this was working out how to make those damn background elements scroll properly. Who would have thought that to get a tween to work in TB that you’d have to move layers with the transform tool instead of the select tool?)

Evaluating contemporary and not so contemptory literature




They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so may I consider this 2k works on the subject?

(Not pictured: four years worth of Imagine FX magazines that currently reside downstairs. Not pictured, not because of laziness but because they’re currently guarded by Shelob the terrifyingly large huntsman)

So, while I know that this LO encompasses more than just literal literature, that’s about where my understanding of it ends. There doesn’t really seem to be that much animation involved in any of this tbh.

I guess then, that I should probably talk about how any of these, and any of the many many online tutorials over the years have helped shape the artist I am today, or how it’s helped in the fledgeling stages of my potential film?

The answer, really, is a whole lot messier than ‘this book influenced this artwork, and this video tutorial taught me how to animate this’.  I could do that – I mean, that costume book right there? Helped immensely with the myth reboot outfits, and how this was the animation that got me into all this nonsense in the first place, and how this is possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a while and sits up there in life and art goals.

(Holy shit, I mean really. That’s what I want to do. No games, no 3D, just sit down and work until  I can make something that gorgeous.)

All of those books up there have influenced me and my work in some way. There’s the manga books from high school that I started to learn to draw with, and then the Loomis books from after that, when I realised I should probably start to learn how to draw properly. (Well, the hard copy books came much later, back then all I had were six precious pirated pdfs)

There’s a slightly trashed copy of the Animator’s Survival Kit I got one Christmas, right after I left highschool, that’s still got shitty bookmarks in it from 2008 when I started using it properly.

The two D’Artist books are years apart, the digital painting one that came from my brief infatuation with Enayla (and that one time I actually got to talk to her, and make her some meshes for the Sims), one that still lurks when I see that gorgeous fantasy art. The costume design one comes from the persisting love I have for Loish’s work.

(We won’t talk about the expensive little kickstarter’d book heading my way in March)

There’s even the cute little Japanese cartoon books that are super handy when it comes to stylising things.

And then there’s the concept art books. I loved ATLA when it came out, it had everything. Awesome fantasy world, characters I could spend hours arguing about on the internet with, and amazing animation. It was a no brainer picking up that book when I first saw it at the comic shop. If I can’t get to that Adam and Dog level, then ATLA is definitely the next thing to aspire to.

I could go on and on in this style for every book on that desk, but really, the point I’m trying to make, is that every artist, every series and every book you come across has a pinball effect, sending you ricocheting off in a different direction. There’s no real way to say X has effected Y and enabled Z without touching on A through W that each left a tiny bit on the finished work. That one artist’s way of doing rim light, while that other animator’s way of making their head turn on a walk all manage to make their way into the final piece.






Resolution + Frame Rates, any investigation of tech specifications seems to inevitably lead back to frame rates, and any discussion of frame rates seems to lead so some kind of bizarre arms race.

Or, I have more frames than you.

For the longest time – since the 30s – animation’s worked at a steady 24 frames a second, and for the most part, in 2D, that’s still the case. Mathematically, it fits. 24 divides out nicely, it’s neat, it’s simple, and that’s probably the reason we couldn’t help but poke at it.

So some places started fiddling around with 25 fps – thankfully this seems more a european thing (though unfortunately guess where a large amount of the remaining 2d jobs are!) and that it also seems limited to the final render versus the actual animating side.

Then there’s the people messing around with 30fsp, which is marginally better than 25 in ease of divisible-ness. It’s also rapidly becoming the standard for a huge amount of video work, causing a few problems for those of us working at 24 frames. Do we work at 30 frames a second and damn the mathematical fuss, or do we render out at 30 frames and risk all kinds of … funky results that probably come from doing that.

And then, if that’s not bad, and confusing enough, then we have the likes of James Cameron and Peter Jackson messing about with 48fps and muddying the waters further.

Thanks guys! I mean, I guess 48 is better than the alternatives solely from a mathematical perspective, but the amount of work that would entail from an animation perspective is just terrifying.

(Of course, that’s just from a person drawing all those frames perspective. I’m pretty sure there’s a bunch of animators animating for games laughing their butts off at me right now, given that games are beginning to regularly run at 60fps, and naturally everything has to look good for that)

Once you’ve got over the fps hurdle (because for 99% of the stuff you’re doing? 24 is still standard, thank whatever deity you prefer), we hit the resolution problem.

I have it lucky as someone who messes about in illustration – I’m already used to working in ludicrously large resolution files. Working in 1080p – literally 1920 by 1080 is child’s play. I don’t even have to fuss about the dpi!

(or worse, whether to go CMYK during painting or RGB. Working for print is a pain in the arse, let me tell you)

It will be interesting to see how fast everyone starts moving into Ultra HD or 4k/8k. At this stage at least, 4K seems to be the latest 60fps, something that everyone likes to bandy around and talk about wanting or having, but not really being that necessary. Working at UHD at 3840 × 2160 isn’t going to be a problem, but once we start getting up to 4K’s 4096 x 2160 or worse, 8k’s 7680 × 4320, things are gonna start getting ridiculous.

I don’t even want to think about the storage space that’ll be needed.



Why movies like The Hobbit are moving from 24 to 48 fps

Animation Pipeline – continued


Time for the third and final part. For obvious reasons, this one gets a tad theoretical, just a warning.

So I’ve already talked about a woeful faaailure of a time line, though the original pipeliny part of it was still pretty good, and I definitely have blathered on about my suspect character design process.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to talk about here.

Most of my research on animation pipelines has come less from actual studios and the like and more from small groups or individuals making short films. This is mostly because that’s a little bit more relevant to the way I work – sadly I have neither money nor staff to do stuff for me.

This tutorial/guide has basically been my guide since I found it. Obviously her work is of a hilariously higher quality than mine, and I’ve only gotten through the first concepting stages and storyboard stages, but it’s still super useful.

I really like the idea of doing a colour script as well, I have such good ideas for how I want the colour of a shot or an illustration to look, but it never seems to turn out right. A colour script might just help cut down on the amount of time I spent tweaking and retweaking the colours.

Of course  I did have to pick the person who actually does use After Effects to compile her scenes, just to spite me. I really do like the way AE handles camera pans though, so I will quit prevaricating around the bush already and learn how to do it. It’s amazing how a camera move makes things look slick and polished when it really, really isn’t. That’s sure to help me out quiiiiite a bit!.

I also intend to make full use of this little tutorial. Probably a little less with the colouring – I have a different style in mind, but definitely with the using a 3D program to build a background base, even if it is just using really dodgy blocks and cylinders to get the perspective down pat.


I’ve added a basic break down of my animation pipeline, such as it is.

basic sketch

Basic walk – just getting the actual poses of a walk cycle down, not worrying about speed or mood

mid level sketch

Continuing on from the basic sketch – adding a bit more mood and character to this, plus some extra tweaking to the body

better sketch

Fixing up some of the magically shrinking/elongating limbs, and making the staff actually function as it should, instead of waving all over the place. Also started some inbetweening on the torso

clothing sketch

Getting some clothing ideas down, this would also be the stage where the secondary animation would be added, like hair bouncing or clothing swishing. Everything up to this point was done in Toon Boom

done sketch


And some clean up and colours – I took the images from the previous gif and imported them into photoshop. I prefer colouring in photoshop, mostly because I like doing the lineart with some of the pencil brushes I have, plus so far it’s easier to wrangle potential shading. After that, I re-exported the images as individual psds, and then re-imported them into Toon Boom to fix any timing issues. It’s not exactly the most efficient manner of working to be sure, but until I do some more playing with the brushes in Toon Boom, it’s what I’ll be sticking with.