Paperless animation

– some thoughts on our process, producing Prøysen mini-series for TV.

This is all animated with TVPaint. The paper flicker is added later, to explain how animation works... 24 drawings per second.

We love to draw. We love to paint, make sketches and flip drawings. Some years ago, we used pencils and sheets of paper. Then we discovered TVPaint,- a beautiful animation software for all those who loves to draw.

We're a small team: an animator, an inbetweener, a background-artist, a compositor and a producer. Using TVPaint means we're still making hundreds of unike drawings. We're sketching, erasing and re-doing drawings. But we don't have to spend time on scanning the drawings, numbering them, line-testing them and archiving them. In a way, TVPaint helps us doing what we like. And takes away the unnecessary steps. Here's an in-depth look at how we do it:

Animating at my animation desk.
It's important to note that, unlike Flash, TVPaint has no "smart" functions that "animates" for you. There's no automatic inbetweening or auto-correction/smoothing of lines. No actions, motion-clips or libraries.

When I start out animating a scene, I start with some of my initial sketches. They're very rough, made with a thick brush in TVP. The background-artist has made some layout-ideas, maybe even sketched the whole thing in rough colours. So, the layout goes into TVP as a layer at the back. Then, all of the sketches are put on top of it, just to collect the ideas.

The blue pencil is my favourite sketch tool. I'll make it a bit bigger than just 2 px, and start roughing out my scene. The scene is then playable,- it's easy to play the blue sketches and get an idea. The little "flip" function works great,- you can flip the last drawings like you would with sheets of paper. The blue sketch can easily be removed later.

Ingebjørg Faugstad Mæland
painting backgrounds in PhotoShop.
We're all drawing on Wacom Cintiqs. It's great to draw directly onto the screen. Also, the buttons at each side of the cintiq are incredibly valuable to the workflow. I have attached the most useful functions to the buttons: scroll, zoom, next instance, next frame, previous frames and instances and the "move" tool. That way, I never use the keyboard. I'm drawing with both hands on the table, like I would with my original drawing desk.

I'm finding my key drawings, working on them (with a red, fine line), then working on my breakdowns, and finally working out inbetweens, straight-ahead actions and details. I'm writing down charts on my drawings, to keep track of curves and orders and to make inbetweening easier. I'm even drawing some curves on a separate layer, to use it on more than one drawing. I've tried the "note" function in TVP, but didn't find it very useful. (For dialogue, on the other hand, it's great). On the Cintiq, the pen has an eraser at the end. I set the eraser to be very smooth and soft when animating. Then I can "fade" down the sketch, and continue sketching on the faded drawing. When doing the final stroke, I change the eraser to hard and small. 

Doing the "acting" part of the scene is great fun. Being able to play the scene at any time, helps a lot. Testing is of great value, at least to me. To add all of the inbetweens, I have some favourite TVPaint tips:

The idea of the light-table function is absolutely fabulous. You can choose to see previous drawings in different colors, you can choose to see just some of them, or you can let them fade away or "into" your current drawing. You can take the drawings "off" the pegs, and put them at a different position for easier inbetweening. That's great.

You can also make your own pencils, and I have my preset "panto"-pencil ready at all times. If a stroke has to be in the same position every time, I can easily paint it onto my current drawing with the "panto" function. But yeah, I know... this might cause a static look. If you prefer a rougher look, this is not a great idea. Still, a great function at hand.

TVPaint lets all layers interact with each other as well. This means, you can have the stroke on one layer and put the colours on another... using the strokes from the layer above.

In some Disney movies, the outline colour is a dark version of the fill colour. If we want this (like in the Prøysen movies) we use different filters. The set of filters to achieve this are saved as a group, ready to import into other projects.

We're exporting the final scene as a QuickTime movie without background (just transparent background). The final scene then goes into Motion, an easy but powerful composite-software from Apple. There we do the final composite with the Photoshop-painted background. The backgrounds are saved as different layers, and added to the multiplane composite. We've tested this in TVP as well, but so far we're more familiar with Motion and Final Cut for that last stages of production.

One Prøysen-movie took about 2-3 months to produce (3 minutes, full animation). You can watch the full movies here (5 episodes will soon be online). They're animated on 2's and 1's, depending on the movements.

The Prøysen-movies are made to entertain Norwegian children. The way we produced them inspired us a lot, and we'll make more animations in the future. Using TVPaint opens new doors in terms of style and animation and it's great for smaller teams like ours. We're able to focus on what we love, drawing and painting, and trying to learn the basics of animation.

Since this is a little documentation of our process, I'd like to thank Ann-Kristin, Lars, Trond and Sven for their work on these movies. Jan Morgenstern has made great sound-design. Thanks, Jan! And last, but not least, a warm thank you to Ingebjørg, who has designed and painted beautiful scenes for these movies and invested many long hours behind the Cintiq.

Hans J. Sandnes
animator / director

5 kommentarer:

  1. Thank you for all describing the way your work =D

  2. Nice post Hans.

    You wrtoe " If we want this (like in the Prøysen movies) we use different filters. "

    do you mind elaborating on what combination filters exactly you're using?

  3. Thanks, Asaf.

    What we do, is this: We're making a copy of the layer with the characters fill colours, then adding a blur to this copy. After that, turn the layer off (not visible).

    On the stroke-layer, add another filter: Image Source. Set the source to your blurred layer. You can then choose your blending mode and decide how you want it to look.

    It's quite easy and looks good : )


  4. Thank you for sharing your process using TVP. This post will be very useful for people who are considering using TVP .

  5. good stuff ,also checkout my blog