"It's Alive"
Work Journal


August 16th, 2002
week 12

This is the part that has really been terrifying me. I know how to animate, I’ve
done it lots of times before, both professionally and for teaching purposes. If
you’ve been to some of the other sections of the website, you’ll probably have
seen the Animation: The Basic Principles examples. I have absolutely no problem
with the basics but I’ve never really been faced with animating a whole film
(even if it is only 2 minutes long). It’s one of those artist insecurities. Every
time I sit down to draw, I find myself thinking, “What makes you think you
know how to do this?” It ends up becoming a challenge to myself. I say,
“Oh yeah?? Well, I’ll just show you that I can do it!”

So, I sat down with the same fears as before and just sort of burned through
the whole thing this week. I did the animation in stages. I started by just
blocking the character into the main position in the scene. I did a rendering
for each scene and then did a new leica reel. I used this to check all my blocking
and camera angles. Based on this leica, I went in and did some minor revisions.
After reviewing the new leica again and getting more feedback from other
people I did my final revisions.

I then went in and moved the character through the scene in any pan shots
to get a proper timing as well as key posing the main body actions (no arms,
hands, legs or head movements yet). This is very similar to rough animation
in 2D where you just draw a rough shape with maybe a line of action on the

Once I was satisfied with this basic movement, I then went in and did the legs
for when the characters are walking or running. I had to make some adjustments
to the general body placement up and down so that the feet contact the ground
properly. I then went back over the body and added some torque and twist where
needed. Next came the head movements which I generally had delayed from
the body timing by 2 or 3 frames to give the action some nice overlap.

Next came the arms then hands. Finally, I did the finger and thumb positions.
I still consider this my rough animation on some of the scenes, as I want to go
in and do some fine tuning with the graph editor. I’ll use this to make some
of the timing a bit snappier in places.

The only scenes left to animate are scene 5 of Fritz yelling at Igor (I still need
to record the voices) and scene 8 of Igor running up the stairs. I’ve animated
him running in and then tripping. I’m not sure why I did this, it just seemed
like a good idea and it’s a neat piece of animation. I’m still debating on the
type of camera move for this scene. The trip is funny but is not clearly seen
from the original camera angle. I’ll need to try some different angles and see
how they look.

I ran into some unusual problems in 3 scenes. In the scene where Igor is turning
the crank to lower the table, the wheel needs to be large enough to be seen from
the angle I’ve chosen. But the size that it is makes it impossible for Igor to turn
because of the length of his arms. I did some simple animation on paper of him
turning the crank and it works pretty good timing wise. When I went to
animate it in 3D I ran into the problem that I had anticipated. In order for him
to hold the crank and turn it, his body had to tilt at a very awkward angle.
I came up with the solution to have him float off the ground when the crank
moved up. I simply moved the camera angle lower so that you can’t see his
feet coming off the ground.

Another scene that was a problem was where Fritz was throwing the switch to
turn on the electricity. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the arm to
rotate properly without tearing his wrist apart. I solved this problem by deleting
his arm and then importing another Fritz, then deleting everything but his arm.
I took this new arm and parented it to the switch, then positioned Fritz’ body
in front of the arm so that you couldn’t see the separation, like a separate level
in 2D. I used the same trick in the final scene where Fritz is flipping the paper.

One of the tricks to animation is not animating everything, just the stuff you
can see. There are several scenes where Fritz simply has no legs, because you
never see them, so why bother to animate something you can’t see? I had some
fun in a couple of scenes, placing his hands in weird positions off screen. (I have
to amuse myself somehow.)

Next entry - Sound

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