How to Get Popular on GoAnimate

At the time of writing this post I am the third most viewed GoAnimate Member of all time and the most fanned, non staff member of all time (second only to GoAnimate CEO, Alvin Hung).

I get asked a lot - how I did I get so popular on GoAnimate? Whilst others, like GoAnimate member, gipsy, have created excellent web sites like Gispy Tips devoted to how to make the most of GoAnimate - including getting popular - I thought I'd share my secrets.

Below is everything I've ever done to get me to where I am today on the site, listed as tips for how to get popular. I'll preface it with 'slow and steady wins the race'. I wasn't always at the top. It's taken me two years of releasing, on average, two animations per month.

I've passed members on the site who are easily at the same technical level as me (and probably better in their own ways too). How did I do it? Read the tips below - it ain't rocket science!

  1. Tell a good or funny story.

  2. Tell it really well. Edit it as close as you can to like they do in real cartoons on TV.

  3. Let people know when you finish an animation. Post in the GoAnimate forum, on twitter and facebook. Twitter is especially important as GoAnimate has a Twitter stream on it's homepage. Include the word 'GoAnimate' somewhere in your twitter post and you'll get your five seconds of fame on the GoAnimate homepage.

  4. After your video gets a few comments, comment on your own video thanking people for their comments. (Your comment will then show up in your fans activity streams on their homepage thus alerting them to an animation you've commented upon).

  5. If someone asks a question or gives a good comment write them a message on their user page either answering the question or thanking them for a great comment.

  6. Watch and Comment on other people's animations. Especially comment about what you liked about their video. Don't mention what you didn't like unless you can suggest how that could be improved. (This has the same effect as Tip 4. You'll be helping to get other peoples animations seen by your fans and, if you give interesting comments, your fans - as well as anyone else watching that particular animation - are more likely to follow you around the site via their activity stream or when they see one of your comments).

  7. Get involved in real discussions on the forum. Try to sound like you have something interesting to say. (A lot of younger members use the forum like real time chat but if you want to mix it with the top animators and access their fans you'll need to be able to contribute a lot more than 'wasssuppp!!' and 'I like cheese!').

  8. (Optional) Start a blog and write about each of your animatons. It'll give you another place to share them and people can learn more about your work. This isn't essential but, if you're like me and buy the DVD of movies to see the behind the scenes special features, then those are the kind of fans you're trying to share with by writing blog posts about how you make your animations. It's for those people who constantly want to know 'Where did you get the idea?'

  9. Go back to Tip 1 and do it all again for each new animation you make.

That's it. All those tips are everything I've done to get to where I am. One final tip... Tip 1 and 2 are the most important. Get those two right and by the time you get to tip 3 your audience will be the ones who share your work, recommend it etc. without you ever having to ask.

You may even find yourself getting more than one staff pick. I suspect I've had more staff picks than anybody - and if I haven't then I'm certainly up there with the most staff picks of all time (I used to joke that I'd installed a secret 'auto staff pick' button in the GoAnimate offices). I also don't know of anyone who has been the featured animator on the Community Page quite as many times as I have.

The Brutal Truth.

If you've read this far (and I suspect the people who really need to read this far probably gave up because 'there was too many words') and you're thinking to yourself 'but I do all that and I still aren't getting anywhere' then prepare to face the brutal truth...

Your animations suck!

Sorry but they do. When someone asks me how did I get so popular and can I give them some advice I usually go have a look at their animations. More often than not they have a collection of poorly made, badly scripted, random bunch of videos that they made 'because they were bored'. Half cooked ideas with unfinished stories that are badly crafted.

It doesn't matter how much you follow my tips. Tips 3 to 9 are all a waste of effort if you haven't got Tips 1 and 2 right. If you start showing people sucky animations it'll be twice as hard next time to convince them to come and watch your latest animation. For every sucky animation you release the harder it gets to find people who'll watch. Nobody wants to come back just to watch yet another sucky animation!

If your first video - that you think shows off your best work - doesn't gain you any fans or even so much as a comment then it probably sucks. However this doesn't mean you should give up. You just need to get your 'geek' on and learn stuff. Learning is cool when it's about something you want to learn!

So what do you need to learn? Here are the three most important things.

  1. Learn how to write a story. You don't need to be good at writing it down but you do need to construct it properly. Bruce Hale is a successful author and illustrator of children's books and has a great section on his web site that tells you the basics, in one short lesson, that'll take you less than ten minutes to read through. Bruce Hale's - How to Tell a Story.

  2. Learn how to 'film' a movie. By 'film' I mean learn how to visualise every scene in your movie by breaking it down into a series of 'camera shots/angles'. If  each scene in your movie only has one camera angle then you run the risk of your movie being boring. Watch my animation below which demonstrates how to break up a conversation scene into a series of camera shots.

    1. GoAnimate Better - The Scene by etourist

    Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

  3. Learn how to use the GoAnimate studio properly. You do this simply by starting an animation for no other purpose than to try things out. Experiment. See what things do. Pick a character, try out all their moves. Design a set. Play with the props. Explore all the themes. Try to recreate something you've seen someone else do in their animation on GoAnimate. It may seem like you're not being productive but when that next idea strikes you'll be a lot more prepared. Just remember, not every animation you start has to be made public.


You should never stop learning about how to make your animations. Pay attention to how other animators construct their films. Challenge yourself to make animations that you have no idea how to make right now. Learn how to make them as you go. Part of film making is problem solving. Working out just how to shoot a scene with the tools you have.

If you've got this far and you think your animations don't suck and you're doing all those other tips that I suggested and still not getting fans and views then here is the brutal truth again...

Your animations do suck!!

People will always come back if they get to know you make great animations. They'll even come back if you make average to good animations.

If people aren't coming back then either your animations suck or... and this is a very big OR... you are the only person on the planet that finds your work interesting. If you want to get popular you're going to have to make animations about stuff that more people like!

If you're not convinced that my tips work or you're not prepared to admit your animations suck and need work then think of me as the GoAnimate version of the Old Spice Guy...

"Hello GoAnimators, look at yourselves, now back to me, now back at yourselves and back to me. Sadly you're not me but if you stopped living in denial and started using my tips you could be as popular as me..."

Everything else is just 'lady scented bodywash' LOL

Ep1 Pt1 Bat Storm: Financial Crisis on GoAnimate

Anyone who has followed Batman in the comics will know that my title 'Financial Crisis' for episode one of Bat Storm is a kind of play on words of the 'Final Crisis' DC series of comics. However from there, beyond the obvious parody of Batman himself, Bat Storm doesn't draw much from the Dark Knight's legend.

Bat Storm is a single dad, working class superhero fighting crime with his superhero daughter Bat Flash. Funding their crime fighting through children's party appearances. In episode one, part one, money becomes tight when two REAL superheroes and a clown muscle in on their turf.

Ep 1/ Pt 1 Bat Storm: Financial Crisis by etourist on GoAnimate


The idea for Bat Storm's series began with the Will Smith superhero movie Hancock. One of that movie's key themes was the destruction created by Hancock whilst carrying out his business of fighting crime. Who actually pays for all that collateral damage?

This question makes you look at films like Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight from a whole different perspective. You start to tally up the cost of the damage where Batman deliberately destroys public and private property as a means of intimidation (see one scene in the movie where the Bat mobile is used to great effect, firing missiles in an undercover parking lot as 'intimidation').
The other major influence behind Bat Storm is a little known British TV comedy series called No Heroics. This series features numerous superheroes with questionably unremarkable powers and little idea about how to capitalise on them. Grabbing any kind of publicity they can get even if it means school yard and birthday party appearances.

No Heroics Trailer


The series focuses more on what superheroes do in their down time and how they feel about other more successful superheroes, in particular, Excelsor, the most famous superhero in the country (who is something of an A-hole in his off duty time).

No Heroics is a very funny series that tries to show that superheroes do have regular lives (and normal failings) between the heroics. Especially noting that these heroes are mostly working class and live in the suburbs like you or I rather than in big enigmatic mansions with unlimited funds.

It would probably be a fair comment to say Bat Storm the series draws heavily on some of the ideas in No Heroics. For example, although my character, Super Charge, is a Superman parody, he actually shares many of No Heroics, Excelsor's personality traits (big arrogant ego when he's not being a Superhero).

I've already talked about the concept of Bat Storm in Bat Storm Coming to GoAnimate so I won't repeat any more of that ground. However in a later blog about my Dark Knight/Bat Storm Trailer I commented that my finished trailer gave me pause to think that Bat Storm could be more action movie like than TV sitcom.

At about that time I'd already finished the first two scenes of Bat Storm which I put on hold whilst I made the Bat Storm Trailer for a GoAnimate Contest. When I finally came back, months later, and reviewed those scenes I felt they were too good to just abandon and change tack. The result being that Bat Storm will remain more of a sitcom but I will be trying to slip in a few action sequences too.

In terms of behind the scenes work on this first part of episode one there is a lot of custom work in order to allow Bat Flash to kick in the door of the convenience store. The door its self is a custom flash prop that I created specifically for this scene (but also used it in my Dark Knight/Bat Storm trailer). There's also a lot of masking around the door so Bat Flash can walk outside the store as the original GoAnimate background doesn't permit this.

Beyond that there is very little custom work apart from the Jokester's poster and the police car (which is also a flash creation specifically for this series).

Originally I'd wanted to record real voices to play all the characters but this series has too many characters and I didn't want to delay things longer by looking for more people. GoAnimate recently implemented Text-To-Speech voices for site wide use and they added in a hand full of additional voices. I decided to feature these instead.

Although they're very robotic, they kind of work and I've left the speech balloons in so people can read words they don't understand, as well as get some hints at the emotion some lines are actually ment to contain.

My focus is more on the script and telling a great story rather than flashy effects. So far feedback on this episode has been positive confirming that the script along with how I've edited the scenes is what people are really responding to.

That's really gratifying since, as I write this, there currently is no script for part two of episode one other than an opening scene. Unlike other animators I don't write scripts before I start animating. I start with ideas and scenes and see where they take me as I animate.

When I started part one I didn't know Bat Storm and Bat Flash would be sitting on train wondering what had gone wrong with their status as superheroes by the end. Ultimately I do know Bat Storm will bounce back but I don't yet know the details of the journey there.

I have been creating characters for the series that have yet to appear but whether I use them I don't know. They're just vague ideas. For example you may or may not see a Cat women like character in this or a future episode of Bat Storm.

Finally, I wanted to mention that I've continued my tradition of self referencing other of my previous animations within scripts. You don't need to know the references to know what's going on but it adds another level for my regular viewers. In this part of episode one the Water Cooler Valet job is a reference to my Animator Dominator Competition animation which featured unusual jobs including Water Cooler Valet and Hat Stand Monitor.

Part two of episode one I'm hoping to release by early December 2010 but given I'm still making it I can't guarantee that. When it is released no doubt I'll write a blog post to accompany that with more behind the scenes insights.

Xtranormal - Easy Animation for Writers.

Xtranormal is an animation site that claims if you can type, you can make movies. It's a bold claim but it certainly delivers with its online 'text to movie' animation studio.

I would liken the experience to writing a twitter conversation where the status update box is shaped like a speech balloon. You simply select which character is speaking, write their dialog in the balloon, then add the next speech balloon to the list for the next (or even the same character) to say something.

In fact if you keep log files of your various online conversations you could use Xtranormal to turn them into movies.

Once you've entered all your dialog, click the preview button and you can see your animation come to life using fairly detailed 3D characters and sets. All the camera angles will be automatically selected and I have to say the automated camera works pretty well. The shots it chooses do make your animation look like a professional movie. It's not always perfect but it's great for people who don't know the first thing about how to film a scene.

The selection of Text to Speech voices are pretty good. Many are fairly robotic but they're still amongst some of the most natural I've come across in this type of application.

You could leave it there but the genius behind the text to movie studio is that you can add in pre-animated movements, facial expressions, gestures, sound effects and more all by placing little icons at the appropriate points in your script. It really is very easy and relatively quick (well quick in terms of how fast you can produce a finished, two minute animation).

As someone with no experience of the site I had my first animation finished in a couple of hours. I think it only took me that long because I was making up the script as I went. I probably could've worked much quicker if I had a script ready to go. The result was episode one (see the embed movie below) of a humorous series I've started called Office Space.

E1: Office Space: Pink is for Men by TET


In this first episode I switched off the auto camera and selected all the angles myself from a selection of 10 predetermined camera positions.

Episode 2 (embeded below) is a little longer. This time I went completely with the auto camera. I think it misses in one or two places that would've worked better with a medium shot but on the whole it's not too bad.

E2: Office Space: Coffee in the Machine by TET


Xtranormal has a good selection of themes and premade characters for each. Office Space is made with the Suitz theme. Other themes include; sports, celebrities, historical figures and more. Some themes use more realistic characters and sets whilst others use characters that look a little like Lego figures.

Most themes come with two free characters and one free background giving you enough to spend hours on the site to really try things out. Once you've decided the site is for you you can buy extra content by purchasing Xtranormal Points.

One of the things I like about Xtranormal is that your finished video is a proper high resolution video which you can easily upload to Youtube by linking your Youtube account to your Xtranormal account.

At the time of writing one thing you can't do with the Text to Movie studio is have your characters walk around the scene. You can't even place them in the scene you have to go with the pre-determinded placement. Hence in my two episodes Steve and Vicki are standing in the same location for the entire scene. However, there is a downloadable version of Text to Movie called 'Slate' which I understand does allow you to move characters around and adds more functionality as well.

I did download Slate but unfortunately my computer wasn't quite up to spec to run it (lacking a 3D graphic card). Personally though I'd prefer to see the online application developed further. It has so much potential for story telling without requiring too high a spec machine to make it work.

Xtranormal's approach to movie editing is unique (at least I haven't come across anything similar). Where most movie editing applications use story boards and time lines, Xtranormals text to movie approach allows writers to add movement, expressions and more much like most people add smiley emotions to text in chats and emails. It's very easy.

Whilst currently you can't create custom characters or add your own sets there's plenty to adapt to your own ideas and scripts. There's still a way to go before the site becomes a serious movie making platform but I expect it can only get better.

Well worth trying out and, with its Youtube and Facebook integration, a great tool for having a lot of fun with all those logged online conversations - imagine turning a facebook comment discussion into an animated movie...

The Dark Stormy Knight - Behind the scenes on a GoAnimate Summer Blockbuster

After my recent success in GoAnimate's Creating for a Cause competition I hadn't planned to enter their next official competition. However when it was announced that the theme was to create a trailer for a Summer Blockbuster (for a real movie or even a completely fictional one) I felt this was the perfect excuse to play around with my Bat Storm cast without having to write a script.

Up until now I've resisted ripping audio from popular Youtube memes and creating my own GoAnimate interpretation because often I watch this kind of video by other GoAnimators and feel a little disappointed. Only because it feels like that person is riding on the success of someone else's content. It's kind of silly really because just about every animation at GoAnimate is a mash up of other peoples content. Why should mashing in an audio track make any difference?

Having got over that I decided, wouldn't it be cool to see my Bat Storm cast interpret the audio from the official Dark Knight Trailer. Rather than using my cast to try and recreate the trailer scene for scene I thought perhaps I could slant my interpretation towards some of the ideas I have for my Bat Storm series.



In the end my final trailer is a wrestling match between the two. Some of it borrows from my Bat Storm series whilst other parts are very similar to what actually appears in the official trailer. Through out I peppered my trailer with a few visual 'Easter Eggs' for those of you that notice the little details.

My final entry to GoAnimate's Summer Blockbuster competition is embeded below and not only do I consider it some of my best work on GoAnimate but also it's changed my vision somewhat from what my Bat Storm series was initially intended to be. More about that after you watch the trailer.

The Dark Knight - Bat Storm Trailer by etourist on GoAnimate


If you've seen my two earlier Bat Storm previews you'll know that at the time they were made Bat Storm the series was looking very much like a sit-com - probably along the lines of American Dad - rather than block buster movie.

Through the process of making this trailer I've come to realise that the GoAnimate studio is capable of creating real cinematic action. Tracking shots of moving vehicles as if you're following from behind, vehicles exploding as they hurtle towards you and, even simple shots of the front of a building exploding are all within the studio's capabilities.

It's even possible to really breathe more dramatic life into GoAnimate's Comedy World Characters through creative use and tight cropping of their sometimes 'wooden' actions and limited facial expressions. (Which is not a criticism it's just that they're often animated poorly by less experienced GoAnimators).

Consequently my work on Bat Storm, the series, has stalled as I kind of mull over the possibilities.

Getting back to the behind the scenes stuff on my Bat Storm trailer... from the moment I matched up a bus pulling away from the kerb with the sound of the Bat Pod racing through Gotham's streets I knew I was onto something with this idea. Then Bat Storm Smashing in a Convenience Store door matched with the sound of Batman landing on a car roof, from a great height, breaking the windscreen just sealed it. I had to keep going.

I can't even begin to count how often I watched my animation back as I was making it. Checking over and over to make sure the audio matched with the visuals perfectly with every new scene I added. GoAnimate's studio feature for listening to an audio clip from any point in your animation timeline was next to useless. I can't see how anyone finds that helpful? The only way to check is to preview your entire animation.

When I released the trailer it had 61 of my own views on it but I watched it countless times more than that inside the studio and hitting replay over and over.

One thing that I did copy directly from the official trailer was the use of the black screen pause. Every so often the official trailer throws up a black screen for a few seconds whilst you listen to some audio - usually some salient words by the Joker - for dramatic effect. From my point of view that dramatic effect meant a few less seconds that required animation.

The trailer itself only took me about a week and a half of on and off working on it to complete, which is a short time for me. Admittedly I did spend nearly 16 hours of one weekend finishing it off but much of the shorter time I can attribute to some luck where things just worked first time.

For example, the "Why so Serious?" scene with the Jokester (In Bat Storm he's not called 'Joker') pulling back Bat Flashes head and uttering those famous words. I set this shot up once, ran it through, and it worked. The only thing I had to adjust was the scene length to match the audio.

That particular scene demonstrates perfectly how, with creative cropping of the characters, you can suggest new actions. If you look at the whole scene (pictured right) you can see the Jokester pointing past Bat Flashes head and Bat Flash taking a fearful step back. With the tight cropping of the scene it seems like the Jokester is pulling Bat Flashes head back and threatening her with a knife (that he isn't even holding).

Based on feedback people are often wowed by my trailer and I wonder if they see some of the more humorous aspects such as Bat Storm hanging from the roof in a bar, then falling to the floor, juxtaposed with the very next scene of the Tumbler crashing into a building... a bit of drink driving perhaps?

Or the scene with Gordon and the Commissioner talking about their latest captive who turns out to be a teenage boy, taunting them from the jail cell, when you thought they were discussing the Joker.

Then there are the Easter Eggs that I scattered throughout. Nods to some of my past animations. Happy Bunny, Havock, Rashy, Harry Chalk, Peter Griffin and the Tank from Happy Bunny Versus Ken are all in there. Incidentally, if you can read what Happy Bunny is spray painting, that came about because, of all my CC Characters, I think Bat Flash is seriously the hottest and the coolest at the same time!

There are three props that really are the stars of my trailer after the characters themselves.

The first is the Underdog wall smash (pictured right). Blink and you'll miss it but on almost every single crash and explosion you'll see a couple of bricks fly out of nowhere as a gaping whole is ripped into whatever wall just got destroyed. It really is one of the most useful official GoAnimate props from any theme on the site. See if you can count how many times I've used it.

The second is a custom explosion created by GoAnimate's Product Manager, Nicolas. There is another more cartoon like explosion that other GoAnimators seem to prefer but I like this particular one because you can use it for any size explosion and you can use it multiple times in the same explosion to make an even larger fireball. Notice how I use it in the scene with Rashy giggling as the wall behind him explodes. One small explosion that blows the first hole in the wall then two bigger ones that tear out the bottom of the wall.

The third is the Tumbler (pictured right along with the previously mentioned explosion prop) created by GoAnimate's Flash animation legend, Reddplague. Not only is it a great animated prop (it is in fact about five props featuring different views of the one car) but Redd's foresight in creating a bottom view gave me a lucky break.

The scene in my trailer where you see the Tumbler explode and flip was another shot that I set up once and it just worked with very little adjustment. For me it's a real highlight and wouldn't have been possible without such a great prop.

Since its release on the 19th of July my Bat Storm trailer has been well received and has even edged into the top twelve of GoAnimate's Top Animations list of all time (two spots behind Harry Chalk 2 which is slowly dropping after three months in the top twelve). I doubt it's going to win the competition. I'm pretty certain on which entry I think will take out the grand prize but maybe I have a shot at one of the stats based prizes like most viewed or most shared. I guess we'll find out when the competition closes on August 19, 2010.

Police Car and DoInk Flash Props for GoAnimate

Working on the first episode of my upcoming Bat Storm animation I discovered that GoAnimate didn't really have any suitable Police Car props. There were a few poorly cropped .jpg images in GoAnimate's community props section and a really awesome but stationary police car by GoAnimator, SolarBaby, but nothing suitable for a police chase.

After making an animated motorcycle for Demon Biker I figured, how hard could an animated Police car be? Rather than go for my local police car style I thought I'd go for the more recognisable Dodge Police car that's been seen in so many movies and TV shows during the nineteen seventies, eighties and even early nineties.

Unfortunately I couldn't find a good side view of a Dodge Police car to trace so I ended up tracing this image of a Dodge Nova and converting it into a four door Police Dodge, based on other images of Police Dodges I had.

Finally to demonstrate my animated, custom Police car I created this short GoAnimate cartoon:

Police Car by TET by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

DoInk.com

DoInk is a fun online animation application web site I discovered a while back but never really looked at until GoAnimator, SolarBaby, alerted me to the fact that you can download your animations for free as .swf (flash) animation files which can then be imported into GoAnimate.

With Pencil Animator being the only decent, free software available for creating flash props for GoAnimate I decided to look into DoInk and see if its free animation studio could be used as an alternative.

Rather than take the easy route and just make a static prop I thought I'd try something a little more challenging and create an animated flash head that could replace one of GoAnimate's Classic Characters head.

I'm happy to report that DoInk is more than a capable tool for creating props and backgrounds for GoAnimate (same rules apply as for Pencil Animator and CS5 in that it's important to centre your props over the top left corner of the DoInk Studio). You can see the sample head prop I made in just over an hour - whilst learning how to use DoInk - in the short demonstration cartoon below.

SWF Head Created with DoInk.com by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

DoInk is very easy to learn and use so it's great for people new to vector and flash animation. I'd particularly recommend it to younger or newer animators who don't want to spend a lot of time reading manuals or following tutorials. That's not to say there isn't a learning curve but most of DoInk's tools are self explanatory or can be worked out through a bit of trial and error.

The only caveat I have about DoInk was that there is no feature to trace a bitmap image. As can be seen from my police car prop above, the ability to trace a photo is great for people who aren't that skilled at drawing. It's also a useful tool to have if you're better at drawing with a real pencil and paper and want to scan your drawings in to be traced.

I haven't really done anything with DoInk since I made this demonstration piece but it's a site I'd really like to get back to. It has great potential and could, possibly be seen as a stepping stone for GoAnimators who want to move to animations that aren't created from someone else's drawings.

Create Animated Flash Props for GoAnimate with Pencil

GoAnimate recently went through some major upgrades that has given more users access to uploading flash animated props. Unfortunately if you're not able to purchase Adobe CS5 or even the cheaper flash animation alternatives like Koolmoves there isn't a lot of great free flash animation software out there.

In fact Pencil Animator, which I've reviewed before, is pretty much it. Whilst it may not have all the bells and whistles of even the lower end commercial flash software products, is quite buggy and prone to crashing, it's still pretty powerful. In fact it can hold its own with the quality of the flash it produces when in capable hands.

Considering Pencil Animator is quite easy to learn, it's own manual leaves a lot to be desired, making the program seem more complex than necessary. If you just want to know enough to make great props and backgrounds for your GoAnimate animations then this is where I come in.

The animation below demonstrates an animated car prop that I made with Pencil Animator. (Note that you don't need to follow the links at the end of the animation because that's simply for people viewing the animation on GoAnimate to get links to the tutorials which I've already embeded further down the page.)

Learn Flash with Pencil Animator by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

I wanted to make a prop that looked reasonably complex to show that Pencil has the power to do a little more than just small stuff. At the same time I wanted to show that anyone can make a prop like this simply by tracing from a source photo (which Pencil allows you to do).

The first tutorial below steps you through the process of making a non-animated prop. The reason for doing this is so that you can enlarge your prop (or zoom in on it) and its lines will always remain crisp and sharp - unlike bitmap props which pixelate.



The second tutorial below continues from the first with the same car and steps you through the process of animating the wheels so it looks like the car is driving.



Depending on the complexity of whatever it is you choose to animate it shouldn't take you much longer than a couple of hours to complete both tutorials.

Once you're done you'll know enough about Pencil Animator to make pretty much any prop or background you need for GoAnimate. As you get more confident with the program you may like to explore the manual a little more to find out what else it can do.

Pencil Animator is, in fact, powerful enough to make complete animations, with sound, that you could upload to Youtube or Aniboom. It's not the greatest animation software around but it does have an incredible user interface and it is a great place to start with 2D and Flash/Vector animation.

NOTE: If you're having trouble viewing the tutorials visit them directly in my Google Docs Animation Tutorials folder.

Enigma Sunshine, Facebook Socialite on GoAnimate

In a some what futile effort to get my partner, Enigma, interested in GoAnimate I created a GoAnimate Custom Character based on her Facebook profile avatar. That's her avatar image on the right and in the image below is Enigma Sunshine, the character - whom was also named by my partner.

The character is actually meant to have green eyes, as in the avatar picture, but for some reason in the final animation the pupils show up black.

My partner spends a lot of time on Facebook so it's not hard to see where the inspiration for Engima Sunshine being a Facebook 'socialite' comes from.

I'm not a big fan of online social networks myself. I'd call myself a 'reluctant' participant. Particularly when it comes to real time chat. I prefer the old style message board forums to live chat (or even Twitter for that matter). I found coming up with a script for the first episode of Enigma Sunshine fairly difficult as result.

In fact, to try and find some inspiration, I created the entire opening sequence before the title, long before I had a script. What I finally came up with is nothing particularly new but it gets the series going and I hope you find it kind of fun all the same.

E1: Enigma Sunshine - Gary by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

The cartoon its self looks deceptively simple but I've actually spent weeks working away on it, planning out my sets and creating numerous custom elements. If you're interested to know more read on.

Set Design

Many GoAnimate cartoons tend to be flat and very two dimensional. Each scene has a back drop and you rarely get to see what the scene looks like from different angles. I've been trying to break this trend by creating sets of the same scene but from different view points beyond 'wide', 'medium' and 'close up' camera shots.

For example in the opening scenes you see a wide shot of Enigma's bedroom. Later in the intro you see her walk from the dressing table to her desk. Just before she sits at the desk the camera changes from somewhere in the middle of the room to looking at Enigma from directly behind the desk.

Then in the final part of the intro you see a shot of Enigma's Laptop screen, looking directly from Enigma's side of the desk, where you can clearly see the desk is actually up against the wall. See the images below (click the image to see the full size version).


Later in the cartoon you can see me do this again with the cafe. There's a shot from outside the window, an interior shot looking from where the window would be, then there is a second interior shot from the other side of Enigma and her friend's table with the window as a back drop.

You don't tend to notice these 'repositioned' camera angles because most of us are used to seeing scenes change like this in live footage on TV and in movies. However on GoAnimate it can be quite a challenge to do this using only the existing props and backgrounds.

Custom Props

Apart from the obvious custom props such as recreating Enigma's Facebook page and creating avatars for her 'friends' there are a couple of other custom props that you may have missed.

First, you'll see a mobile phone sitting on Enigma's desk. I know you never see her actually use it but it is, in fact, a custom flash prop created in Koolmoves. All GoAnimate Custom Characters have a 'talk on phone' action so I created this phone to look like the one they use - since GoAnimate haven't actually created the phone their characters use as a separate prop.

Second, you'll see Enigma's hands typing on her computer keyboard. Those hands are also custom made by me in flash, using Koolmoves. It's actually only one hand I made. I just flipped it for the other hand. GoAnimate have similar separate hands for their characters but for some reason they all are in a pointing position.

Voice Acting

I've described my process for adding voices before in my post about Harry Chalk. I never record voices until the animation is finished complete with speech balloons for everything that is said. I then adjust all the scene lengths so that you have time to read each speech balloon out loud.

I then play the animation through and record my voice reading each part, putting in as much expression and feeling into the words as I can muster. I usually do this three times through just to be sure I get at least one good reading of each line.


My partner has actually taken drama classes and performed in front of people but, just like most people, she was nervous about recording voices and doesn't like the sound of her own voice recorded.

She did crack up laughing at the beginning of her first take but pulled it together quickly. Just like me, it only took three takes for her to complete the voice work.

Usually the third take is the one I use with maybe bits and pieces from the first two takes where the voice sounded better. That's pretty much what happened with the voices for Enigma Sunshine.

Ambient Sounds and other Audio

If you turn the volume up a little louder than normal whilst watching Enigma Sunshine you'll notice at the Cafe there is the appropriate background noises for the scene, People talking etc.

Usually I just have music running in the background to fill in the quite spots (as I do in Enigma's bedroom scenes) but, if you don't want to use music, ambient background noise is the other alternative.

You'll also notice I added footstep sounds when people were running and a head scratch noise for Gary when he's just staring at the table. Details in audio like this can really bring your animation alive and seem more real.


That pretty much covers my behind the scenes look at Enigma Sunshine. I am hoping to make this an ongoing series but anticipate it being something of a struggle given my reluctant participation in online social networks.

Of course if you have ideas for future scripts for Enigma then feel free to suggest them in the comments below.

Demon Biker 2.0 by Charles Zippel and TET on GoAnimate

Demon Biker is technically my second GoAnimate Flash character after Kung Fu Cat since I started work on him before I started work on Hoot. However with Demon Biker being much more complex, Hoot was released first.

Designed by GoAnimator, Charles Zippel, I offered to turn his bitmap, GoAnimate prop 'stop motion' style character into a a true Flash animated character because I saw it as a natural progression from Kung Fu Cat. Charles' character was slightly more detailed but not by too much. There was also the challenge of creating and animating the characters motorbike as well.

Charles' original animation demonstrating his character is embeded below.

Biker Demon (New Character) (new tag) by CharlesZippel

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

Just like Kung Fu Cat I used Koolmoves to create my Flash animated version of Demon Biker. Although the character took longer than Kung Fu Cat I did find him easier going as I had learned a lot with the cat on dividing a character into easily poseable sections. Many of his actions were created simply by moving and rotating various body parts with only minimal redrawing done.

Watch my demonstration video for Demon Biker below. This shows all the initial moves he started with - I've since added a few more.

Demon Biker 2.0 by Charles Zippel by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

You'll notice in the animation that Demon Biker draws a gun on Balrog (his Street Fighter opponent). User Created Custom Characters can't actually hold props like official GoAnimate characters. If you try the prop will disappear. To compensate I gave Demon Biker a 'point arm' action where his hand remains rock steady in the same position, even though the rest of him is moving with the standard minor 'breathing' movement.

This allows any kind of pistol style gun to be positioned behind his hand (without the character actually being made to hold it like you would with other GoAnimate characters).

I learnt something new with animating Demon Biker's motorbike. In Koolmoves you can set up an object to rotate and Koolmoves will handle the 'tween' frames automatically. In this case I wanted the motorbikes wheels to turn - which I achieved simply by rotating the wheel spokes on their own rather than the whole wheel.

As it turned out my wheel spokes weren't quite centred properly causing them to go slightly out of line as they turned the first 180 degrees then back into line as they completed the full revolution. This was actually a 'happy accident' as to compensate I moved the whole bike down, back into line on the key frame at the 180 degree mark. What I ended up with is a motorbike that moves slightly up and down, simulating how the suspension might react to the ground, creating a more realistic looking, travelling motorbike.

I'm pretty happy with how Demon Biker turned out. I'll be adding more moves as time goes on but for the most part it's possible to get by with what he has now.

Animation Careers: eHow Video Series by Tim Hodge

I stumbled across this video series by Tim Hodge which he put together for web site eHow in which he gives short glimpses into the world of the professional animator.

Tim Hodge is a writer, director and animator in Nashville, Tenn. He worked for many years as an animator and story artist with Walt Disney Feature Animation. His most recent work includes writing and directing several entries in the popular Veggie Tales animated program.
 
I describe the videos as 'glimpse' because each one is quite short and briefly touches on the topic of the title without going into it in any real depth. However as a series it makes for a good insight into the career of a professional animator.
 
As someone who is learning traditional style animation using flash the first video in the series I watched was Episode 12: How to create a walking animation (embeded below). Despite having access to many examples of how to make a character walk I seem to struggle making my own characters walk. Often they look more like they've got a bit of a limp.
 
This particular video shows how to make a convincing walking character in just six frames.
 


Tim covers a range of topics in the rest of the series including different careers, how much you can expect to get paid, styles of animation and more. He's not too technical and has a fairly casual and easy to listen to presentation style.

Watch the whole series on eHow or, if you prefer Youtube's player, watch the series on Youtube.

Anagram Fun with Hoot on GoAnimate

Hoot the Owl and his Wisdom Tree are a creation of GoAnimator, TheseStars. I'm not sure if I just happened across her first animation of Hoot or if she asked me to watch but in any case I liked the idea a lot.

I thought the idea of using GoAnimate to share a love of anagrams was both original and a great use of the site. The only problem was, in TheseStars original animation Hoot and his tree was just a static drawing. (a still from the original is shown below)

.

This wasn't very engaging to look at in the sense that it wasn't animated - something you would expect on an animation site. I had a feeling the character would have much more appeal if some movement was added.

I was in the middle of working on Harry Chalk 2 but, looking at the drawing of Hoot I thought I could probably make an animated version with the most necessary basic moves very quickly. So that's what I set out to do. In the space of an evening I had created (in flash using Koolmoves) Hoot's Wisdom Tree as a prop - so any background could be placed behind it - and Hoot with 'sleep', 'stand' and 'Talk' actions.

TheseStars was very happy with the finished results and went on to make the animation below - which was awarded with a Staff Pick on GoAnimate.

Introducing Hoot! by thesestars

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

I think you'll agree the animation she put together is extremely engaging, dynamic and adds plenty of personalty to all the characters with her excellent voice work.

Over time I hope to add a few more actions to Hoot but it's really quite amazing at how much life just those three initial basic actions have given to this fun little owl with a liking for anagrams.

Harry Chalk is BACK on GoAnimate

Almost as soon as I finished the first Harry Chalk I knew that the animation would end up being a series. In fact I remember thinking, crap! I've started another series.

The original has been sitting within GoAnimate's top nine animations of all time for four months now and spent several weeks of those months in the number one spot. It has been viewed more than 11,850 times. Not bad for a small side project.

To get some idea of Harry's popularity I released Harry Chalk 2: Bill's Revenge on May 25th, 2010 and, five days later it's sitting at number 2 in GoAnimate's top animations of all time. That's a record for any of my animations.

In this new adventure Mathew is learning the history of John F. Kennedy's assassination which prompts him to imagine Harry escorting the Presidential motorcade. Things kind of progress from there.

Harry Chalk 2 Bill's Revenge by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

As you can see all the principles are back... Matt's still day dreaming, Harry's a little angrier, Sally's tougher and Bill's not dead!

So far people are saying this second installment is at least as good as the first but I have to agree with those people who still like the first better. I do too.

What's also interesting is that people are asking me about creating a prequel to the first Harry Chalk. I'm not sure what a prequel would contain so I asked GoAnimator, HuskyPup, who said "Personally I would like to know if Mathew's imaginings are real or pretend, because something niggling in the back of my brain tells me they're real."

From my point of view I hadn't really thought about it. Most of what Mathew sees is all in his head. He just gets so caught up in the story that he forgets where he is. Although it has crossed my mind to do an episode where Matt's imaginary characters do battle with another students imaginary characters - so who knows... maybe it's not all just in his head after all?

There's not too much behind the scenes stuff to explain about Harry Chalk 2. The only new technique I employed was when Harry takes out and puts away his pistol. This was achieved simply by using the stick figures take out and put away mobile phone actions - timing them slightly shorter so that Harry never puts a gun up to his face and starts talking.

Sally's gun kick was done the same way as Harry's in the first episode so if you want to know how then read the first episode's post. I will say that I had thought of changing Bill's weapon to a shot gun and have Sally do the same kick to get the shot gun but by the time I thought of it there were just too many scenes of Bill and the pistol and I was already over my release deadline. Maybe in a future episode.

Speaking of future episodes, I still haven't achieved what I originally set out to do with Harry Chalk. That was to do a really good stick figure fight scene. There was kind of a fight scene with Bill in the first episode but that's not the fight I had in mind. I really wanted to do a cool three way fight with the Parallel Triad from episode one.

Having not achieve a great fight you can bet there will be a Harry Chalk three some time in the future.

Video Comes to GoAnimate with TET's PA


GoAnimate has been beta testing a new feature that allows you to add video objects to your animation. More about that in a moment. Just prior to the video feature's release to GoAnimate beta testers I made an animation called 'Moonlighting - TET's New PA'.

The premise being Jim Benton's Happy Bunny, from my GoAnimate Complaints Department, series decides to take a job moonlighting as my personal assistant. The idea came about as I way to humorously inform my fans of the status on some of my on going series projects like MIB and Harry Chalk as well humorously look at some of the problems of being a popular GoAnimator.

Moonlighting - TET's New PA by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

There's not much more that needs to be said about the above animation. It's basically the GoAnimate Complaints Department in a new setting with a trap door.

I discovered GoAnimate's new video upload feature on GoAnimate's Forum in a discussion where someone had tried to unsuccessfully upload the Youtube meme, Charlie bit my finger. I decided to take quick action to be one of the first to demonstrate how video could enhance and have great potential for creativity within animation rather than be a means to which people could just upload video to GoAnimate and do nothing else with it.

TET's PA Video Test by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

Created as a kind of short continuation of my previously mentioned TET's PA animation I created this short video demonstration over the best part of an afternoon. Since Happy Bunny had used the trap door quite a bit I thought me questioning him about it's effectiveness seemed like a good idea.

Once I'd written my lines I set up my video camera in my studio (which is a two car garage) so that it pointed directly at a wall. Then I imagined where Happy Bunnies desk would be and then put myself in frame so it looked kind of like me sitting opposite the desk.

I then acted my lines, being careful to look about where I thought Happy Bunnies face would be (I didn't set up any markers I just imagined its position based on how I framed the shot). I think I filmed about five takes with the one I used being either take 4 or 5.

I also recorded myself reading Happy Bunnies lines out in my studio so his audio would sound like it was recorded in the same space (which it was - obviously)

After that I imported the raw footage in my video editing software to remove the lead in and lead out footage so that only the section I needed remained. Then I added in Happy Bunnies spoken audio in the appropriate gaps (complete with helium voice effect).  Once done I compiled this scene into a windows media file and uploaded it to GoAnimate.

Once yoour video is on GoAnimate you can simply place it on the studio stage like any other object, character or prop. You can move it around, resize it and place it in front or behind objects. The video also retains it's sound track - effectively giving you an extra audio track on top of the four already provided in the studio.

In GoAnimates studio I positioned the video and then placed all the props around it and positioned Happy Bunny so his face matched where I was looking in the recorded footage. That was really all there was to it. After that it's just like editing any other animation.

I haven't seen many other beta testers try this feature out which is kind of surprising to me. I think there is a genuine concern that this feature will be misused and people will simply upload video and forget to enhance it in some way with animation. Which is perhaps one reason why it's not been used a lot.

However I think it is a great addition to GoAnimate's studio that does open up many creative possibilities in the right directors hands. I know I'll certainly be trying more with video on GoAnimate in the future.

Domokun Golf

It's golf but not quite as expected. Greg and Mr Usaji are having a quiet game of golf when suddenly Greg's ball starts to move all by its self.

This short animation was put together fairly quickly to give my Domo Animate fans, who had been asking when my next Domo animation was coming out, something new from me.

It's a rare occasion that I use anything other than Domo characters in a Domo animation but when I came up with the idea for this I was experimenting with the stick figure theme on DomoAnimate.

I imagine this could be how Mr Usaji first met Domo.

Domo Golf by etourist

Like it? Create your own at DomoNation.com. It's free and fun!

People have asked me how I made Domo's shell break away when hit by the club. It's a simple slight of hand effect. Domo is still in the egg but hidden by a grass coloured circle that moves along the same path as the shell. Then a different 'flying' domo is used to distract your attention.

I would have like to developed this idea more but other projects meant I really couldn't explore it further.

Koolmoves, Kung Fu Cat and GoAnimate

Koolmoves is professional flash animation software at a budget price and is a great alternative to Adobe's Flash Professional CS5. At less than one twelfth of the price of Adobe's offering it's a great introduction for flash noobies to dip their toe into the water to see if it's for them without the pressure of a serious investment in software.

It's also great for people like me who only need a fraction of the software's capabilities. The cost of CS5 is unjustifiable whilst the cost of Koolmoves is a good investment should you discover you want to do more at a later time.

I bought Koolmoves back in February and I've now had some time to test it out. As I said I only needed a fraction of what this software can do so as a result I can only comment on what I've used. However if you want to program fully capable, flash web sites or make stand alone flash movies and cartoons then Koolmoves certainly appears to have everything you need.

Me... I just wanted to be able to create animated characters and props that I could import onto GoAnimate.

Koolmoves has a dedicated Cartooning and Illustration mode which turns on all the software's advanced features. This can be a bit daunting so, if you're really new to the software, it's probably worth trying out the wizard and basic modes first and just seeing what you can do with that before taking the plunge into full on cartoon animation. Try some of the tutorials and task assistants as well.

This review isn't intended to be a step by step guide to creating characters with Koolmoves. Instead I'll just highlight features that I liked and point out any difficulties I've had.

For my very first animated character GoAnimator, Cool34606, agreed to let me turn his custom character, Kung Fu Cat, that I'd animated with before, into a true flash animated character. I chose his character because it was an original design and because Cool's drawings weren't too complex but weren't overly simple either.

The first great feature, that I assume is standard in most cartoon animation packages, is the ability to import a bitmap image so you can trace it with vector lines. That meant I could just load in Cool's original drawings to trace my base figure from.

The only problem I've had with this feature is that if you change magnification of your drawing it'll no longer match up with your trace image. Thus you have to choose a magnification before you start and then stick with it.

Once you have the base figure it's relatively easy to animate most moves without having to redraw every frame. You just move the vector lines around on each new frame. The ability to 'onion skin' i.e. see previous and successive frames (shown below) comes in real handy.


You can see as many previous or successive frames as you need. You can also view your image in wire frame mode if objects are obstructing lines on other frames that you need to see.

Koolmoves does have a character 'bones' feature where by, in theory, you create a skeleton for you character so that instead of moving the vector lines themselves you just move the bone limbs around and the software will move your lines correspondingly. However I found it clunky and unusable and haven't tried to use them since. To be fair though even the user guide says their bones system is primitive so hopefully future versions will improve this feature.

I've only delved into Action Script at a most basic level with my characters, using commands such a 'stop movie' and 'gotoAndPlay'. GoAnimate characters don't really support advanced action script commands. Koolmoves supports both Action Script 1 and 3 so if coding is your thing the software is very capable.

Exporting your creation, options include; as straight flash movies, Flash/HTML embed, frame captures and Scalable Vector Graphics.

Below is my GoAnimate demonstration video for Kung Fu Cat which shows all of the initial moves I created for him using Koolmoves.

KFCC 2.0 - First Test by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

It would be fair to say I've barely used Koolmoves to it's full potential. It includes many fantastic effect tools to create animated and 3D text. Drawing tools include the ability to create gradient fills, transparency, adjust line thicknesses and more. You can import video, audio and indeed, create entire flash animated cartoons with Koolmoves alone that you could upload to Youtube.

The program is still a little buggy and has on occasion crashed on me but, if you save your work often this will hopefully not be an issue. For the shift into paid flash software from the extremely buggy  Pencil Animator it is one giant leap for very little cost. I would definitely recommend it as an animators tool and for anyone who wants to try flash without the high cost of Adobe's Professional software.

Note: If you're a GoAnimator reading this review, as of the time I wrote this article only GoAnimate Beta Testers are able to upload flash objects and characters. This may change some time in the future but, in the meantime, why not try Koolmoves and learn flash animation for yourself.

Bat Storm Coming to GoAnimate

Readers of my other blog will know that I'm a huge Batman fan. Specifically Batman on film as I don't read Batman comics at all. I've blogged about Batman many times. More about that in a moment.

When I recently saw the movie Hancock it struck a chord with something I had been thinking about when I watched the movie, The Dark Knight. That is the cost of the property damage many of these superhero characters cause in their quest to rid the world of evil scum.

Hancock creates a massive amount of unnecessary property damage that becomes a major cause of concern for the city he lives in. The cost of cleaning up after the heroes misadventures is a real issue.

If you look at the opening scenes of The Dark Knight where Batman sends in the Batmobile to 'terrorize' the criminals, the car crashes through a wall and fires missiles into what looks to be a toll booth office of the multi story car park they are in. What is that costing the rate payers of Gotham?

Enter my new superhero character Bat Storm. See the first preview below.

Bat Storm Preview by etourist on GoAnimate


When GoAnimate introduced superhero outfits into their character creator, because I'm a huge Batman fan, I set out to see if I could create a character that was as close to a Batman look-a-like as I could get. Seems easy enough but none of their superhero cowls have bat ears so I had to improvise (I'm not telling how I achieved the ears).

You also can't change the logo insignia of two lightening bolts on the superhero suits so when I was thinking up a name I related it back to that insignia so it would make sense - hence 'Bat Storm'.

My concept for Bat Storm the series is looking at the idea that being a superhero is actually pretty expensive. Especially if you're not a heir to an old money billionaire fortune like Bruce Wayne is. Bat Storm is low rent and working class. In fact he's a single Dad struggling to make ends meet and can't afford to run a car.

His daughter, Bat Flash is seventeen and works in the family business of crime fighting and children's party appearances (crime fighting doesn't actually pay a lot when you're a vigilante).

Bat Storm is just like Batman and has no real superpowers. In fact he's not even that great at solving crimes with his public school education and B minus grade point average. However he's determined to make crime fighting pay... at least a little more than being a criminal seems to pay!

Unlike the current Batman on film, played by Christian Bale, real superheroes do exist in Bat Storm's world. In particular, Super Charge and Charge Girl (Superman and Super Girl look-a-likes respectively). Bat Storm and Bat Flash see them as 'the competition' and don't tolerate it when they muscle in on Bat's turf.

As can be seen in this preview animation below with Bat Flash and Charge Girl:

Bat Storm Preview 2 by etourist on GoAnimate


By now you should have realised Bat Storm is a comedy series. My intention is to do a run of six episodes each 24 minutes long (each episode will be broken up further into 8 minute parts for GoAnimate). The challenge for me is to transition from short, 3-5 minute scripts to TV length sitcom scripts.

I'm hoping to have the first episode out by June/July of 2010 but it's a lot of work for one person so we'll have to see how it goes. If you're looking forward to it, let me know in the comments. It might just spur me on to get the series done sooner.

In the meantime here's a sequence featuring Super Charge from an unreleased, third preview animation (you may need to click on it to see a larger version):

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