Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My First Animation!

Here's one from the archives.

Way back in the 20th Century when I was producing the "Troubles the Cat" segments for CTW/Cartoon Network's Big Bag they asked if we could help out on another piece.

Maciek Albrecht
was the director on "Troubles" and we turned to him to take care of this film.

It actually is a film. The animation was shot on Maciek's animation stand in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Maciek used to live and have his studio in the building with the smokestack on Bedford Avenue and North 3rd.

"Zoom to the Zoo" was the first piece I made with Maciek out of this space. "Troubles" was being animated in Krakow and the production was run entirely out of The Ink Tank.

The biggest worry at that time was lunch. There weren't any places to eat on Bedford Avenue in 1997. There was a Polish bakery with questionable hours and even more questionable pastries. There was a pizza place or two several blocks down the road. I think even Plan Eat Thailand in its original cozy nook was yet to be opened. Elly, Maciek's wife, would sometimes make lunch for the crew. This is how I was introduced to bigos. She even made vegetarian bigos for me.

(image from here)

There's a real estate broker in Maciek's building now. Finding a place to eat is no problem. But if you're still craving some old fashioned Polish cooking -there's a pet food store right underneath Maciek's old loft.

We had no money to make this film. Maybe $4000 that we could spend -including stock and lab and transfer. I also didn't know anything about production. I was good with charts, though.

The idea was to do cut outs because they were cheaper. Maciek has this way of doing what he thinks will look best despite costs -one of several bad traits I learned from him.

Here we animated on paper. Then inked on cel the old fashioned way -all quill pens, notice the colored lines. The "opaqueing" is mostly cut out paper colored with airbrush (some is flat painted, some is colored pencil, some watercolor) and spray mounted onto the back of the cel.

Maciek then created a cycle of 4 frosted cels with airbrushed "wisps" on them which add a layer of moving haze.

Like I said, I didn't know anything about anything at the time. Maciek was probably tired of me looking over his shoulder for 10 hours a day and gave me some things to "animate".

He gave me a drawing of an eagle, a bear, a couple parrots, a gorilla, a gator laughing, a lion and there was another that got cut but I don't remember what sort of animal it was. It must have been really bad.

That's when I learned that animation is mostly tracing. Get a good drawing, move some stuff around, trace.

The compositing was done in the AVID. We had to work with a "supervised" transfer to BetaSP from Technicolor since that was all the budget afforded. The rendering of the keys took probably 48 hours. They're not even good keys but at the time, for the budget this was like The Matrix.


Michael Sporn said...

"That's when I learned that animation is mostly tracing. Get a good drawing, move some stuff around, trace."

Surely, you weren't being serious. Movement is mostly tracing, but animation is a touch of the gods' pencil. Ask gods like Ed Smith or Tissa David, though, and they'd probably say you were right.

A nice spot, by the way.

Asterisk Animation said...

"Mostly tracing".

It's the part which isn't tracing that's so darned impossible.

Watching this piece again, I'd wouldn't change any of the film making aspect -the design, the cutting, the animation (even the shaky tiger -maybe the shaky tiger). I would just do better keys and fix the tree wipe from wide shot to the medium of the car. It pops and has always bugged me but it was too much of a problem for the AVID to deal with.

Maciek animated everything else on this.

Liesje Kraai said...

Looks better than my first animation... I even like the monkeys and I HATE monkeys.