Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Timing Charts for Traditional Animation
I was digging through one of my boxes from my traditional animation days at Disney Feature animation and found tons of notes I either took or gave out depending on the class. Disney was a great time of learning for us all. They really put a lot into training us- especially during breaks between films. Sometimes I would be attending a great lunchtime talk by a visiting artist and other times, I was the one giving the talk on a certain subject of animation. The notes I post today are from the latter, a talk I gave on the subject of "TIMING for Animation". Remember, these were the traditional (hand drawn) days of animation. These are dinosaur notes about the way we worked back then. I'm not saying that some of this isn't still interesting and maybe even a little useful for the CG animators out there. BUT, what has made me want to post this is because I've gotten asked about charts so many times through the years. Yes, its a smaller, traditional-animation-hungry crowd with a fair amount of knowledge about how animation is done, but nonetheless, there is interest. These notes are on small, yellow, lined paper so I hope they are clear enough to read. I may have even photocopied these and handed them out, I'm not sure. At any rate, they do help describe what the charts were for and what they were describing. Now that I look at these notes, I think page 4 should be the FIRST page. It helps to give a visual of what a chart is if you haven't seen them before. Look at that one first. To be honest, charting is more of a "feeling" you are trying to express in a technical way. Every animator hated handing off their scene for someone else to inbetween because as the animator, you really felt like you knew how each drawing should be drawn, felt, and move. You were then giving the half completed (though 100% thought out) stack of drawings to an assistant to finish up. This was a necessity because of the sheer volume of drawings that needed to be completed for each scene, for each character, for each special effect, in each sequence in each film. You had to go onto the next scene while that one was being finished up. That usually meant you had the rough inbetweener or clean up assistant bring the scene back to you when it was completed so you could "roll through it" (that's like flipping it, but on the pegs)and check all the arcs, timing, drawings, etc. Corrections could be made by you are by made into a "teaching moment" for your assistant if there was time in the production. I held the job of rough inbetweener for Mark Henn and learned most everything I know about animation- and especially how he organized an animation scene- from that experience. How I charted a scene is very close to how Mark charted. Except for the exception of the animation behind the charting. He could place the drawings (spacing-wise) so that most of the crisp timing was already in his keys and breakdowns. This made most of his charts, even "halves"- since he just needed a drawing there to evenly keep the pace of the animation. I never mastered that ability. I relied on throwing drawings onto "1s" (one frame of film shot per drawing, rather than 2s which is exposing a drawing for 2 frames of film) or getting very creative and complex in my charting so that I could get more time out of a pose and a crispness as the character was leaving that pose. Most of us animators relied on those "tricks". To be honest, had I not worked with Mark Henn, I would never have thought of charting as anything but where the "real" animation timing comes from. But, through working with him, I discovered that the timing isn't in the inbetweens, its in the breakdowns. Eric Goldberg is a good example of that. His most important "animation drawings" (not poses- those are the key drawings) are his breakdowns. His inbetweens (that he charts) then become mini-breakdown drawings also. He is making keys and sub-keys (to make up a new term) rather than breakdowns. Those are in his charts. Sorry, this is way too complex to explain without having visuals. To be honest, the notes below may do the same thing: raise more questions than answers. I hope you get something out of them. All you really need to know is that every horizontal line on the chart (or "graph" for math people) represents a drawing. The numbering system that correlates with each drawing helps you know weather or not the drawing is on 1s or 2s. If they are all odd numbers (like in the first example) then they are on 2s. (Mark always had a way of getting his animation that was on 2s on odd numbers- no matter how many times he would switch to 1s inbetween animation sections. I think it was just a pet peeve of his,there was really no reason they had to be odd numbers.) On page 3 you will see the more complex charting examples. Believe it or not, as a rough inbetweener, you could get a scene on your desk that had 2,3, or even 5 charts per drawing on it! Ruben Aquino was a master at the multiple chart keys. What this meant was that if it was (for example) a human character turning from right to left, he would have a seperate chart for the head, one for the right arm, one for the left arm, and another for the hair overlap. ESPECIALLY for the hair! (Ruben is excellent at overlap animation and ALWAYS has the hair moving at a different timing than the body that is leading it.) In doing this, he could make (in one drawing/inbetween) the head move out of the key faster, the left arm evenly, the right arm favor the key, and the hair REALLY favor the key. In the end, I think I charted more like Ruben Aquino than like Mark Henn. Of course, it doesn't really matter how you do it, just the result you get when you shoot it. Or as we would say when we were tired of a scene and just wanted it done- "IF ITS MOVIN' ITS GROOVIN'!"