Pt1: Simple Perspective for 2D Animation

Perspective drawing is the art of creating the illusion of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface such as a piece of paper or your computer monitor screen. The principles of Perspective drawing are also very relevant to 2D animation - particularly when you want to move a character closer or further away from the camera.

In this series of articles on perspective I'm going to demonstrate how perspective can be taken into consideration when creating your animations. I'm going to try to keep things simple so you don't have to remember too much when applying these concepts in your own work.

I'll be using the GoAnimate studio to create my examples but the concepts also apply to any form of 2D animation. If you'd like a detailed explanation of Perspective Drawing then there is a great series of articles in Art Factories, Perspective Drawing Techniques for Artists.

Most people are aware of the key concept of perspective i.e. things get smaller as they move further away and bigger as they get closer. However applying that idea to moving characters can be quite a challenge. You'll often see this kind of Perspective failure (see animation below) with new animators where a character walks unnaturally off the bottom of the screen.

The trick to applying perspective well is to begin viewing your piece of paper or computer monitor screen as more of window into another world rather than a flat surface. Imagine you could reach right into it and touch the things you see on the other side. The mistake in the above video occurs because the creator has yet to learn how to visualize correctly the space at the other side of the screen.

Simple, One Point, Character Perspective

In the GoAnimate studio the most basic camera angle is a fixed position that shows you the entire background scene - as per the scene in the example video above. Most scenes use one point perspective.

(Note that, in GoAnimate, all the Lil' Peepz style themes use isometric perspective on many of backgrounds and props - which is problematic when trying to apply correct perspective to scenes and characters since isometric perspective has no horizon line or vanishing point).

One point perspective, at its simplest, works by drawing a horizon line across the middle of your scene and choosing a point in the exact middle of that line, which becomes your vanishing point. You then place your character in the scene at the initial size you want them to be.

Then, when you want the characters to move closer or further away from the camera in correct proportion to the scene, you just imagine some guidelines that extend from the vanishing point to the top and bottom of your characters and beyond, off the edge of the screen. (See still image below).

If these two characters now either walk towards the vanishing point or towards the camera in a straight line, perpendicular to the camera, their size should increase or decrease proportionally so that the top of their head and feet are always in contact with a guideline.

You can see this in practice in the video demonstration below which finishes with a scene similar to our original perspective failure video above, showing how the characters should correctly move off screen when walking toward the camera.

Notice that the left and right side of the scene (divided in half by the vanishing point) mirror each other. If one of these characters were to walk directly at the camera, in front of the vanishing point, they would get bigger in the scene until the middle of their stomach hit the camera.

By simply marking where the horizon line is in a scene and placing the vanishing point right in the middle of it. Then using guidelines, as I've shown, you can get by reasonably well with fairly convincing perspective of your characters in 2D animation.

In part 2 of this series I'll be looking at applying one point perspective to backgrounds to create realistic, horizontally scrolling backgrounds.

Improve Your Video and Animations - Vary Your Camera Shots

A lot of first time video digital camera owners don't have access to a tripod and vary what their camera films through their own natural movement when filming a scene (and going overboard with the zoom function).

However once they start to learn technique and story telling they soon discover that fixed (usually tripod camera mounted) shots with minimal use of panning the camera and using the zoom function are how stories are more conventionally told through the lens.

On GoAnimate the camera is replaced by the scene stage and how it is framed using the CUT, PAN and ZOOM frame tools. Whilst this article is focused on GoAnimate, the principle applies to almost any film medium.

Below are two videos of the same 'Where's your Helmet?' joke animation. The first uses a single, fixed camera shot to film the entire scene, with a panning shot at the end (which is needed so as not to spoil the joke). The second uses variable (or multiple) camera shots to tell the same joke. This is the version that I originally published.

Where's your Helmet? Single Camera Shot by etourist on GoAnimate

Fixed Camera Shot

Where's your Helmet? by etourist on GoAnimate

Variable Camera Shot

Which do you think is better from a story telling point of view?

The first is the equivalent of fixing the camera to a tripod and only moving it when the panning shot is required. The joke still works and, because this is a short animation it doesn't become too tedious. However imagine if the conversation went on for five minutes or more with the same camera shot. Never changing.

In the second version it starts with an extremely wide shot (known as an 'establishing shot' to familiarize the viewer with the whole scene). The wide shot shows us one character standing with a second walking towards him.

It then cuts to a medium wide shot that brings us closer to the characters and makes us feel part of the conversation as the first begins to talk. This shot also establishes that the first guy to talk is actually talking to the second guy because they are both in shot.

After the second guy answers the question the shot then changes to a close up of the first guy as he continues to talk. It's not absolutely necessary to do this (as indicated by the Fixed Camera example) but what it does is focus the viewers attention on just that character as he speaks - in much the same way as the second guy would also be focused on the first guy. The change in camera shot also gives your eyes something new to look at as this conversation progresses.

We then cut back to a medium wide shot so we can see the second guys reaction to what the first guy is saying - as you would if you were actually standing with these two as they spoke. As soon as the first guy said something that you know is going to get a reaction from the second, you'd want to see him react.

Hopefully you're getting the idea. Almost any video or animation can be improved by varying the camera shot between wide shots, medium shots and close ups. Use the choice of shot to focus the viewers attention on the most important elements of the scene or the things you need them to notice.

Usually it's the characters talking that you want to focus on but, provided you've set up your scene with a good establishing shot, you can focus on almost any other part of a scene, even whilst a character is talking. As demonstrated in my GoAnimate tutorial, The Scene, that I created for GoAnimators several years ago (below)(Note that GoAnimate's PAN, CUT and ZOOM tools have changed since this video was made).

1. GoAnimate Better - The Scene by etourist on GoAnimate

Learning this simple technique of varying your camera shots can dramatically improve the professionalism of your videos. Although flashy special effects can really grab attention nothing beats a good story told well. Learning to move the camera around is the first big step in telling a story well.

How to Get Views The Evil Genius Way - Episode 3

Way back in May and June of 2009 I released the first two episodes of my comedy series, How to Get Views The Evil Genius Way, intending to make more in the series at some future date.

Nearly three years later I finally came up with a new scheme. Which is not to say I couldn't have thought of something sooner, I've just had a lot of other projects and ideas that I've been exploring in those years.

My key problem with this new episode was that the Underdog theme license with GoAnimate had expired - and with it, Simon Bar Sinister's availability as my original star.

There was also the problem of the Super Rica and Rashy theme license also expiring. Rashy had featured as a supporting character in both of the previous episodes and, whilst this new episode didn't really require him, I thought it would be funnier if Simon still had his monkey army around (having had it returned by Evil Witchy).

This all got me started on the challenge of seeing if I could recreate a new Simon Bar using GoAnimate's Comedy World Character Creator and a new Rashy-like monkey using the Lil' Peepz Character Creator.

You can see the results in Episode 3 below. Thanks to professional voice actor, Dan Lawson, for his fabulous talent as the voice of Simon Bar Sinister.

E3: How to get views the Evil Genius Way by etourist

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Behind the scenes, Dan was awesome. He kindly donated his voice talents before I ever asked him to be involved in this project. (Another reason to make your work the best it can be - great people will want to be a part of your next project if they enjoy watching your work).

Dan really delivered, giving me a choice of four different voices for Simon including one that sounded identical to Simon's voice in the original Underdog cartoons. I went with a version that was exactly how I imagined Simon would sound - which is a little higher pitched and slightly faster tempo than his voice from the cartoons.

After that Dan provided me with 2-3 takes of every line and even included some improvised coughs, chuckles and effects (such as the echo of the loud speaker) that I didn't ask for but really added to his performance.

The idea of Simon obtaining an army of bunnies to  view his animations does come from the original forum post I wrote that inspired the series right from the start. The post was a joke on how some of the top animators get their views. In it, I said this about former Top GoAnimator, Random Girl:
Random Girl has an underground lair where she has networked 3000 computers and 3000 robotic rabbits who watch her animations continuously. In their spare time the rabbits plan world domination and hope Random Girl will lead them to salvation and electric carrots.
When I first had the idea for Episode 3, Simon's rabbits were going to be robotic rabbits, using the Cyborg Bunny Character I created for The GoAnimate Complaints Dept. Cyborg Bunny episode. However I couldn't envision robot bunnies using so I ended up having them as real bunnies instead.

As I said the monkeys didn't really need to be in this episode but I thought it would be funny to have them there as a kind of secondary opportunity for humor. It's not particularly funny when Simon pushes the monkey out of the way the first time but when he does it again over the credits - even I laughed out loud at that.

I hope it won't be quite so long before the next diabolical scheme, though at this time I don't have any ideas for another one. If you're reading this and you do have an idea for an outlandish scheme, feel free to suggest it in the comments. You may just inspire the next episode.

Men In Black 2 - Part 6 and Rashy's Last Hurrah.

Over the 2011 Christmas break I started work on Men In Black 2 - Part 6 unaware that GoAnimate's license for the Super Rica and Rashy theme would expire on January 1, 2012.

Had I known the theme was going to expire, I would have not only fast tracked this episode, I would also have fast tracked part 7 - which will be the final episode of the series. Thanks to GoAnimate's CEO, Alvin Hung, who allowed this episode to be published despite containing a character (Rashy) from a discontinued license.

If you're not yet familiar with the series then check out MIB2 - Part 1 to catch up on the story. Essentially it's a parody of the MIB films with President Obama playing the Will Smith role but the story is my own original script.

For those of you up to speed, knowing that Sock Monkey, Rashy, is an Evil Genius and a master of disguise, below is Part 6 for your enjoyment. In this episode we see Rashy's diabolical scheme unfold with disastrous results...

Pt6 - Men in Black 2 by etourist

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Behind the scenes on this episode there really isn't too much going on of a technical nature. It's all pretty straight forward, stock GoAnimate props, characters and backgrounds.

However I did want to draw your attention to the shoot out with the SWAT Team at the White House press conference.

Many people criticize GoAnimate's Comedy World theme for its lack of character actions. In particular the ability to hold and shoot guns.

With some fast but very basic editing I've shown a fairly action packed shoot out scene using comedy world characters without ever once showing a character actually holding or firing a gun.

The closest I get is in the image shown on the right of the SWAT member who runs into shot, then you see his rifle lift into shot. No hands or arms can be seen anywhere.

The scene then changes to a moving target sight that stops on one of Rashy's Robot's head. (The observant among you may notice that the SWAT rifles don't actually have this kind of targeting sight on them).

Finally the scene changes to a shot of Rashy at the podium with two of his robots. We hear gun fire and an explosion then see one of the robots heads explode. We know why it exploded because of the previous two shots which explain it.

To make these scenes seem more action packed I had the entire scene 'shake' with the earthquake effect and had SWAT members running around in the background of other shots to suggest a lot of things were going on.

In general I think I demonstrated fairly well that you can overcome some fairly severe limitations of the Comedy World characters with creative editing.

With that, we say farewell to Rashy as the Evil Genius. He may make a brief appearance in Part 7 but only as a static image. Thought I'd send him out with one of my favorite Rashy animations created by GoAnimate member, gipsy. The appropriately titled, Termina.

Termina by g¡psy

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