Saturday, September 8, 2012

My first 2D Animation: What I learned

Recently I had more spare time at work so I decided to make a 2D animation. First I'll show you the animation I did and then I'll discuss some differences between 2D and 3D. It's a 10 second animation running at 24 fps. Since I was super lazy, I did it at 12 fps and then exported at 24, so the animation is not very smooth. Check the video below:



Note: Done with PAP4.0.

Not great, but not crap either. It's OK I guess. I should add that I have always been a 3D guy. I learned how to animate in a computer, using 3dsmax and a mouse, so 2D animation is very rare to me.

So, to the subject of this post: What did I learn from doing 2D animation?

There are a couple of things that I have learned from this little 2D test I did that will apply to animating in 3D (things that I know but I don't often do):
  • Planning is SUPER important
  • Only animate what you see through your camera
  • Take care of all your frames!  
I'll go through each of this subjects...

Planning


When I started my animation, I really had no idea what to do. I knew it was going to be a stick figure, but that`s it. So, I decided to start with a running cycle. Then, I said "he should come from somewhere", so I did the first part, when he lands. Then, I added the jump, and finally, I thought it was a good idea to end with a funny note, so I put a wall in front of him.

As you can see, zero planning. I was going with the wind and my mood. And I paid the price for that. I had to redo several frames at the beginning of each sequence to make it fit with whatever was coming before or after. And that was time I spent fixing things, not creating. In 2D animation, I believe planning is even more important than in 3D (not saying that is not important in 3D, it is, VERY important).

But you may ask, why is MORE important? Good question! In 3D, whenever you want to change something (a pose, a sequence, etc) you select the controllers, remove the keys and start over. In 2D, you actually have to erase everything! That's the equivalent of removing your character from the scene! For those that draw fast, it should not be a problem, but for most people it would. Let's say you want to change the way the arm reaches a cup of coffee... In 3D you erase the keys or adjust the curves, but in 2D... BOOM! Bye-bye arm. Restart.

So, I believe in 2D, knowing what you want to do is the most important (again, not that in 3D is not, because IT IS!).

One viewport


When doing my 2D animation I realized the importance of working with just one camera (unless your working for video games and you're doing gameplay animations). Taking care only of what you see through the camera can save you A LOT of time! I mean, why should I animate the feet of a character in a close up? Nobody is going to see it. Sure, in Perspective view the animation it's going to look silly, but you should not care. As long as the final product looks good, you should not care about the out-of-camera controls.

Seriously, train yourself to do that, you'll start to animate much faster.

Take control of your frames! All of them!

In 3D, when you adjust a curve of a control, you can foresee the way it will behave in the frames that follow. You don't have that in 2D. There is no interpolation in 2D, since the computer is even dumber in 2D. You will have to manually adjust all your frames, for every part of the character (at least every part that is shown through the camera).

But this characteristic has pros and cons: Adjusting yourself all your frames will give you much more control over what you want to show, however, it's much more work too. You can also do the same thing in 3D, but it's much easier since most of the time you won't need keys in every frame, i.e. the computer will interpolate the trajectory of the controller between two frames.

Other differences


In 2D you don't have rig constraints. You don't have attributes to animate, no stretch control, no IK/FK switch, not Global/Parent options, no gimbal locks, etc. No technical limitations. You're free to do whatever you want with your character and there is no stupid constraint or limit to tell you otherwise. Need a prop? No problem! Just draw one. Knee is popping in your walk cycle? No worries, redraw the leg! 2D gives you that kind of freedom, but it might shot you back if you don't know how to control it.

Which leads me to another difference: Volume. I found it very hard to keep the volume of my character, specifically the head. In my 2D animation, I realized that the size of the head of the stick man was getting smaller by each drawing. I had to correct that, but again, it was time spent fixing, not creating. Keeping volumes in 2D can be a very tricky business.

One last characteristic is also the ability to add characters if needed to the scene. So let's say my running stick man bumps into a bigger guy instead of a wall. In 3D, I'll have make a concept, model it, rig it and animate it. In 2D, just draw it. That is a HUGE advantage over 3D!

So overall, I believe that 2D animation gives you a better control over you animation and your scene, but is much more demanding than 3D. When animating in 3D you just have to do that, animate. In 2D, you have to consider other things like volume, what you camera angle is (some camera angles must be crazy to animate in 2D!), fps (it's relatively easy to switch between frame rates in 3D), etc.

However, those animators who have a 2D background will always have the upper hand over 3D animators, in the sense that they already know some tricks that serves them well in all types of animation, like the importance of planning and taking care of all your frames. You can't let the computer interpolate anything in 2D because it can't. And the less involved your computer is in your animation, the better your product will be.

Cheers!

4 comments:

Cris Monde said...

Looking forward for your next project! I like 2d animation more than 3d because it's more interactive to me. Hope to see the complete work of yours in this kind of field!

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Ricardo Ayasta said...

Thanks! :D

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