Drawing Inspiration from Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work

Almost every comic book (or graphic novel) artist eventually comes across American cartoonist, Wally Wood's 22 panels that always work. pictured below. Note that the subtitle, provided by Wood's ex-assistant Larry Hama (who is responsible for compiling this version of Woods Panels), reads:
"Or some interesting ways to get some variety into those boring panels where some dumb writer has a bunch of lame characters sitting around and talking for page after page!"
This suggests clearly that these panels were intended to add life to conversational style scenes with very little action as a way of making the scene more visually interesting. Hence, generally you wouldn't apply these frames to action sequences - though I'm sure some would work.


Although intended for cartoonist and comic book artists many, if not all, of the panels translate reasonably well to film and animation and could serve as a source of inspiration for giving your own films a more visually interesting look. This idea is demonstrated in the Youtube video below which is a film representation of the 22 panels by Kill Vampire Lincoln Productions.



If you're already creating films or animations you've probably already used many of the panels already. I know I often make use of the panel 6 technique in many of my own animations - essentially it's an exterior shot but you can still hear the characters speaking as clearly as if you're standing next to them.

Wally Wood's 22 panels aren't the only shots that always work. In fact the original drawn version by Wally had 24 panels so there's at least two more that always work. However if you're are looking for ways to make a conversational scene more visually interesting and coming up a blank, adding in one or two of these panels may just be the solution.

Doing More with Backgrounds on GoAnimate

If you've ever watched a cartoon on television or at the movies you'll notice that most of the time you never see just one view of any scene. The camera position changes quite often depending on which character is talking or if the director wants to show the scene from a more interesting angle or just a different point of view.

In doing this it creates the illusion that the characters are in a more complete environment much like live action film or video.

With a bit of creativity you can create alternate views of GoAnimate's existing backgrounds using existing props and minimal custom prop creation. Take a look at these examples that I created for various animations.

Enigma Sunshine's Bedroom

Everything in Enigma's bedroom, from my Enigma Sunshine animation, is an existing GoAnimate prop except for the mobile phone on her desk. The room its self is the Comedy World theme's 'girls bedroom' with the addition of a desk and laptop computer.

Different desks were used between the wide shot and the other two shots. Notice that in the central mid shot the bed and mirror are actually in the wrong position in relation to the desk but it still reads as correct unless you really study the relationships between each piece of furniture and where they should actually be.

Hospital Ward

This hospital bed scene (pictured right, top) is another standard Comedy World background that I created an alternate view for in Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

The new view in the scene bottom right is looking at the same bed but as if you were standing in front of the curtain looking back the other way. The view reveals a second bed on the ward.

Notice the floor is the original floor from the scene. The beds and drip bags have been flipped and I used the square shape to recreate the back wall and block out the curtain. A window prop has been added.

The only custom part of the scene is the lights on the wall which I simply took a screen shot of from the original scene and turned into a .PNG file prop.

The scene works but those of you with a keen eye will notice some inconsistencies. The switch for the lights is on the wrong side. A set of drawers on the left of the scene is completely missing in the flipped scene.

Note that although the drip bag is positioned on the wrong side of the bed, in my animation I moved it to the other side - which is why the feed is on the opposite side in the new scene.

Original GoAnimate Background
Office Cubicals

Much like Enigma Sunshine's bedroom above with GoAnimate's Comedy World Office cubical scene I added in a whole new cubical in the foreground for an animation that I created for a business client. It's almost the same scene but with the camera zoomed out even further to reveal the foreground cubical.

New foreground cubical.
Everything in this scene is a standard GoAnimate prop though not everything is what it seems. The back of the office worker's monitor is actually a big screen TV from a Comedy World lounge room scene. Most of the desk props come from the Lil' Peepz theme. The original background has been made lighter by covering the whole scene with the stick figure theme's window prop colored white.

Side view of cubical.
For the same animation I also created another view of the foreground cubical. this time a side view. Can you spot the inconsistencies between the two views?


As you can see, extending scenes and creating alternate views can really set your animations apart and give a sense of more three dimensional environments for your characters.

What's more you don't need to do very much in the way of making custom props. Often you can make a new view of a scene with just what GoAnimate has available. Try it in your next GoAnimation.


The War Beyond - TET's First Anime on GoAnimate

The more realistic Anime theme was introduced on GoAnimate back in June 2012. At the time I was very busy with creating business animations but I did take some time to try the theme out and started making The War Beyond.

The War Beyond by etourist

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

The premise of a war starting without the two main characters really being aware of what's been happening in the wider world around them was inspired by the film Tomorrow, When the War Began. In that film the group of teenagers take a camping trip to a remote location only to come back to an invasion of their town that no one was aware was going to happen before they left.

My version looks at the idea that teens are often so engrossed in their own world and circle of friends that they sometimes don't pay attention, or even just ignore, what their parents are doing as well as not knowing about news and current events affecting their community.

The style of the animation (apart from anime) was to try an look like a graphic novel with the choice of camera shots and placement of speech balloons - without actually being a graphic novel. I never considered using TTS voices or having people voice the characters.

I never intended to tell the whole story of the two teens. In fact I came pretty close to just deleting this animation as an unfinished project however I felt there was enough there it would have been a shame not to at least publish what I had.

Back in early November I revisited the animation and decided I had enough scenes to be an interesting narrative. I went through and refined them, then added sound effects and music.

Adding just the right word at the end to sum up what the viewer had just seen took some thinking. I had a few other words in mind but 'Hope' seemed the most appropriate in suggesting that maybe the two teens made it out.

There's not much in the way of technical details and tricks to relate. Most of it is quite straight forward. Of note though include:

  • The picture in the opening scenes falling to the ground from the vibrations of the helicopters. Details like this can really enhance a scene - especially if you add a sound effect to go with it.
     
  • The two characters actually enter the apartment without opening the door yet you hear a door close as the scene dissolves from outside the apartment to inside. This works because a dissolve in film 'speak' represents the passing of time. Even though, in my animation, we're going almost immediately from outside to inside, the dissolve suggests enough time has passed for us not to actually see the characters open and close the door.
     
  • Dialogue is kept short. You learn nothing about either character, not even their names yet, through their exchange, you learn that war has broken out and that the boys parents were at least preparing for it. Everything else is explained through the visuals... even that these two are probably a couple.
     
  • The closing scenes, with the two characters walking down stairs. GoAnimate's Anime characters walk and run in a slightly unrealistic way (you can see it when they run to the television). Originally I had them running down the stairs in a wide shot but it looked so terrible I changed it to two medium panning shots where you can't see their legs at all.
Having used the Anime theme I'm not a big fan. I like all the backgrounds, and the characters are great but the character creator for the theme is so limited right now. Though it's good the characters can 'learn' actions like the Lil' Peepz characters.

If GoAnimate adds more variation and particularly more outfits to the Anime character creator - and perhaps offers a bit more of the theme for gopoints rather than gobucks it could well take off. Right now it's a little expensive for the average user and doesn't offer enough free characters to be much more than a novelty for most people.

Book Review: The Complete Digital Animation Course

Over the course of my life I've owned a lot of books about how to draw cartoons but only one about how to draw and create animation. In case you're interested it is the Walter T. Foster published book How To Animate Film Cartoons (No#190) by acclaimed animator, Preston Blair.

So I thought it was time to buy another book, this time updated to the way animation is created today. Whilst a lot is still hand drawn, as shown in Preston's book, modern animation has embraced the digital age and gone far beyond hand drawing everything. Computers are a big part, and probably even the central tool, in any modern animators tool kit.

I didn't have a lot of money to invest but I tried to go for a book that I thought would cover as much of the animation industry as possible. That's how I came to buy Andy Wyatt's book, The Complete Digital Animation Course: Principles, Practices and Techniques: A Practical Guide for Aspiring Animators.

As an overview of the industry this is a worthwhile book to own for any beginning animator. It's logically set out and begins with equipment and software then follows with four chapters, Pre-Production, Production, Post Production, and finishes with Professional Practice.

Each chapter is then broken down into about two pages on each subject that forms a relevant part of the chapter. For example Pre-Production covers subjects such as Ideas and Concepts, Story and Visual Research, Script Writing, Storyboarding, Film Language, Character Design and more.

The biggest chapter is Production. Just some of the subjects covered include Animation Techniques, Voice Recording, Digital 2D and 3D Artwork, Backgrounds, Staging, Motion Theory, Stretch and Squash, Expression and Lip Sync, Scene Planning and Types of Shot.

Post Production covers things like Compositing for Animation, Visual Effects, Sound Production and Editing.

Finally Professional Practice talks about promoting and selling your work and yourself as an animator.

The book is very easy to read with plenty of photos, illustrations and diagrams to discover and enjoy. Most subjects are covered by two to four medium sized paragraphs backed up with image captions, side bar boxes of tips and other helpful notes.

It's easy to read, easy to put down and come back to if need be - you'll never be stuck in the middle of a subject given that most subjects are covered in two pages. At 144 pages you'll get through it quickly and probably pick up a lot you didn't know. It may even open your eyes to an area of the industry you hadn't thought about trying too.

Where the book falls down is that it describes its-self as an 'animation course' and starts out with small assignments related to the opening few topics. However the assignments appear to be more like 'activities to try' and don't really link with each other in a way that makes you feel like you're progressing or even learning anything substantial.

The assignments may have been more useful for the reader if they worked through a project in some way so that, by the end of the 'course', the reader would have an animated short of their own creation to promote.

My only other criticism is that describing this work as the 'Complete' digital animation course seems a little overstated on the book's content. Although it does cover virtually any topic you can think of, with only two pages devoted to each, it just barely scratches the surface of any topic.

Despite that I'd certainly recommend it as a good starting point for anyone looking to get into digital animation - especially if you're like me and going the self taught route. However it's not the only book you'll ever need. You are bound to want to go into some topics in a lot more detail eventually.

The idea of using the book as a guide for the novice animator is where its strength lies. Think of it as an assistant who knows every step of making a production, who you can consult to make sure you're not forgetting something.

Good value and a worthy first or second book for any would be animator's library.


Tomb Raider to Tears of Steel: 3D Animation with Blender

3D animation (of the polygon and texture map kind not the 3D glasses kind) is something I've wanted to get into ever since I saw the cut scenes created for the original Tomb Raider game back in 1996.

I've embeded the opening cut scene to the first level of the game below. It looks quite primitive now but back then it was very cinematic for a game cut scene. It was the closest thing I'd seen to the possibility of making movies with strong characters directly on a home computer.

The problem was that I never could afford a computer powerful enough to run the software 3D animation programs require. The system I had at the time could just barely run the Tomb Raider game in low resolution mode.



Seemingly, every time I was able to buy a more powerful system, 3D animation software had progressed and required a system more powerful to run it. Because of this I eventually gave up on 3D animation as something that was accessible to me.

Fast forward to the September 2012 release of the Blender Foundation's fouth short film Tears of Steel (embeded below) and you can see just how far 3D Animation within reach of a home computer has come.



The same day I saw this animated short I immediately placed on pre-order the four disk DVD set of the film. That's four disks for a 12 minute film!

If you're not familiar with the Blender Foundation, they're the organisation behind the free, open source, 3D animation software, Blender.

Blender has been around for a long time with its development beginning as far back as 1995. Over the years I've installed it on my computers but have either not had a system powerful enough to run it or just found it very hard to learn.

One thing is for sure, Blender has come a long way. Which is the purpose of the foundations short films - to showcase just what is possible with Blender. Tears of Steel is the first time they've combined live action footage with 3D computer animation.

I must admit I bought the DVD specifically so I could own the film. I could've just downloaded it free from the Tears of Steel website but I was so impressed with it, particularly with the script and the ideas it contains for such a short work that I really wanted to support the people that created it.

However, if you're remotely interested in 3D animation for film and specifically combining 3D computer animation with live action then this is the DVD set to own.

Aside from the film its self the DVD contains everything you need to recreate the entire film from scratch. Not entirely from scratch of course but as close as you can get without hiring all the actors and camera equipment to film the live action sequences yourself.

The DVD's contain all the source and working files used to create the film. The latest copy of Blender along with a bunch of tutorials showing you how things were created.

There is also the obligatory behind the scenes documentary on the making of the film - which is okay but perhaps not as informative as I would have liked. It captures the behind the scenes fun as well as how things were done. I just would've prefer a little more 'How to' and a little less 'fun' scenes.

I'm not going to go on and on about the DVD as I haven't even had a chance to really look through much of it myself. Just watch the promotional video below.



If your budget doesn't run to buying a DVD you can download a much of the content from the Tears of Steel website (and Blender from the foundation website).

I bought it as inspiration to perhaps try 3D animation again now that I can at last afford a computer that can run Blender. As I said if you're at all interested in 3D animation for film then Blender is a great place to start. Especially since you can find a bunch of tutorials online to help get you started.

I'd suggest a good project to work towards would be to give yourself a freaky robot hand!
Related Posts with Thumbnails