Online Resources for Doing Character-Based Flash Cartoons (No Print)?
May 14, 2004 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Looking to make some character-based cartoon animation in flash. What plugins, 3rd party apps, techniques, etc. have you used and would recommend? No dead tree literature, please, as I am far beyond the clutches of Amazon, and my local library is absolute crap.
posted by signal to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Toon Boom Studio is probably worth checking out.
posted by sad_otter at 11:38 AM on May 14, 2004

I haven't heard of any plugins or apps to help you out (though the likes of Adobe AfterEffects can help spice things up) but here are some techniques I've found helpful. I might have a hard time articulating this stuff, since it's better shown than described.

- If you don't already, use the pen tool rather than the paintbrush for doing outlines. This may be dead obvious, but the paintbrush, used with a tablet and 'Use Pressure' turned on can make for some wonderful strokes. Just ends up bogging the program and the process of animation down, though.

- If you don't have a tablet and have problems drawing freehand with a mouse (never an optimal tool) then use the line tool to make a very rough, angular version of your final version, then hover your cursor over the line and click and pull to make the curves you want. One can make some very tasty curves this way.

- Keep your lines and curves clean. Select the drawing and hit the Smooth tool, which is a sub option of the arrow tool. Click it a few times to get rid of little bumps and irregularities that aren't immediately obvious, and which can hamper the flow of your animation. Using Smooth rather than Ink under the pen options helps too. You can make the smoothing less severe under preferences.

- Use 'Snap to Objects' to close and attach lines, to make filling and line bending easier later. The sensitivity can make this tool seem more trouble than it's worth, but it can be adjusted under preferences.

- When colouring and filling, screw around with the various Brush Modes. They'll often make things easier for you when the paint bucket starts pissing you off.

- If you want your animation to look good, try to avoid using a lot of the motion and shape tweens with regards to scaling especially, and movement less so. They seem like easy fixes, but they're often very obvious and stuff starts looking like the old Spiderman cartoon. I've done this before, and looking back, it looks like crap to me. This may be just a personal prejudice.

- Have a sheet of phoneme mouth shapes handy, if you plan on having your characters speak. I have a hard copy of a much simpler version, but this site gives the general idea.

Hope there's something useful here for you. Flash can be fun, but it's quirky and often frustrating. It bogs down quite easily, if there's a lot going on at once. It may restrict you stylistically, but if you try to keep things clean and simple things will go more smoothly for you.
posted by picea at 9:47 PM on May 14, 2004

Having worked as a traditional animator, the best lesson i learnt was from a Chuck Jones documentary: remember that the advancement of the story is the primary objective.

Concentrate on your key frames, your (inbe)tweens are not as important, and can be much looser than you think, depending on frame rate - if you look at tweens from some of WB's earlier cartoons you will see they are blobs of smeared colour instead of disney conventional nicely lined art (this kind of tweening expedited production but also created the illusion of characteristic frenetic toon pace). Unless you are after slow and smooth pseudo-rotoscoped animation effects, this tip will save you a lot of time :)

And the tip about the dangers of overusing flash tweening is valid, too. Better to use well-drawn expressive key frames with less tweening than mathematically smooth animation that looks a little bit unnatural, IMHO. However, there are artists that have used flash tweening well when used with care - just don't rely on flash tweening alone (eg use drawn keyframes for someone speaking with auto tweened limbs making arm gestures - this way, the tweened art adds to the traditional animation for effect, the animation does not solely rely on motion tweens).

Also, draw on paper first, or model your characters in clay. This makes your characters real and tangible, so that when you come to animate them, you understand their dimension, dynamics and personality better.

have fun! :)
posted by elphTeq at 1:27 AM on May 15, 2004

Good advice, everybody. Thanks!
posted by signal at 8:11 AM on May 15, 2004

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