When looking at the designs on the model sheets for Mob Psycho 100 it strikes a very good balance between the more fully proportioned designs seen in Japanese animation with the loose, off model sensibilities of more western titles, with its minimal line strokes it helps to make them easy to draw across multiple frames due to the lack of extremely complex outfits and shading, however it makes up for this in the way its designs move. This lends itself very well to digital animation as it makes use of consistent lifework and consistent colour shading. It often goes off model in order to sell movements by using things like squash & stretch as well as smear effects, another good example of this would be this frame from the Disney film ‘Aladdin’ where they distort his general body structure in order to better illustrate his speed when it’s in motion. This is an extremely effective technique which isn’t all that practical while working with AE/Duik Rigs as the character always is on model with the standard layout. By having two levels of shading it also aids in making it easy to get the lighting to be consistent which leads to the animators being able to pull off more interesting camera movements.
This cut for example was animated by Yoshimichi Kameda and tracks several dumbbells flying across a room with a constantly shifting perspective due to the movements of the dumbbells. By using the blue glow effects it communicates the idea that they are being moved by some force but they also act as a subtle type of smear effect which is a single frame that displays an implied movement. In this example it also helps the viewer to stay aware of the camera’s current location in the scene. In addition to that glow effect it also uses traditional scratchy line smears which as well as squashing them as it helps to get across the speed of which it travels across the room. The constant movement of the camera doesn’t even cause much of a loss in detail either due to the somewhat simple shading throughout.
Going back to Aladdin again, the film also uses these off model elements in similar ways, although due to the way backgrounds were made at the time it would’ve taken an immensely larger amount of time to let the camera move as it was all hand painted. So by shifting to digital methods for your backgrounds it allows you to create more interesting movements within a shorter span of time his feeds into why smears are used as it is a means of conveying the idea that something is moving too fast to perceive normally. It can be used to illustrate other things like a continuous repeated action although this isn’t as common. Smears also can be used to save time as it can create convincing movements without having to draw the full movement in the limb. The technology of the time overall seems somewhat limiting in retrospect as the backgrounds were often done by separate people as it would be impossible to recreate them completely in the same way that digital productions do. Because of this the camera will almost always remain static.
After observing these two examples I tried to create animations using the ideas presented within these pieces and I’m fairly happy with the result. The use of smears and going slightly off model really helps out with selling the movement of your character. This project’s animation will be done through a mix of Adobe Animate and hand drawn frames which I scanned in. While it will take much longer than it would if I were to do it all in After Effects would say the end result was worth it as often times AE’s rigging is very restrictive and leads to most of the characters looking like unexpressive paper dolls as well as making it somewhat challenging to have the character from a different angle due to the need to create an entirely new rig for it. In order to practice with the hand drawn elements of this short I created these two short GIFs which would help me get used to using a Lightbox, the latter of these would be redone later digitally and included as part of the project. the main focus for both of these in terms of technique was trying to include smear effects although the ‘Jump’ GIF also has me trying to test some elements of squash & stretch as the character is the longest at the peak of its jump after bending its knees to prepare for it making it smaller in the process. By having it not constantly be moving at the same pace there is also a strong element of ‘Easing in and out’ which involves having things move faster depending on the direction of their momentum and the physics in place.
Most modern 2D animation productions are done with digital software ranging from ToonBoom to Adobe Animate, both of these programs work on a similar layer based system to the cels and background paintings seen in many pre digital animated works. Whereas in the past key animation, in-betweens and effects animation would need to be done on individual cels these programs streamline the process so that the files can be distributed amongst stuff easily and from any distance which has allowed for the industry to become even more collaborative than it was before. While light boxes are still used nowadays they aren’t quite as prevalent as they used to be, they were often used in order to trace and fully replicate a frame or at least certain aspects of it in order to create movement. The same technique translates almost 1:1 with Adobe Animate’s Onion Skin toggle which allows you to see transparent versions of the surrounding frames on the timeline. These both allow for the timings of your character’s movements to flow much better as you can see the full motion of your animation in one image with Onion Skin on. Digital Productions also have the perk of being easier to upscale due to all of the frames being easy to relocate when compared to many older productions as well as being easier to correct if need be.
Example of a smear frame:
This shift to digital has made outsourcing even more commonplace and convenient than it ever was before, often times a show/film’s storyboarding and key animation is done in-house while the in-betweens are done by a studio located in places like South Korea or China. This acts a time and cost saving measure and many big shows like ‘The Simpsons’ take this approach nowadays, some studios still choose to do everything in house although this is increasingly rare due to the difficulty in keeping a tight schedule and cost of hiring more people. This is also part of the reason that the general employee count of most animation studios has fallen.
In regards to MP100 a vast majority of the key frames were hand drawn although thanks to the influx of webgen animators (a type of animator that gains a following/jobthrough creating digital art gifs on social media) on the site a large set of them were all done digitally from the stat as opposed to doing the keyframes by hand before scanning them in. On the over hand Aladdin makes use of both hand drawn and cel based animation which involves painting on transparent sheets and overlaying them on the background.