Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No clean-up department?

Dick liked to clean up at least a few key poses for every shot in the film himself. As an animator your goal was to get your poses as close as possible to the way he would draw, so he wouldn't have to change too much. If you were confident you could go and get your model check drawings early. After a while I started to do it more often that way, because it was faster. He did not like to look at pose tests, though. To get your animation approved you had to have the stuff pretty much rough inbetweened on twos. If he didn't like your animation you would have to address the notes and ask him again at some point to go over your revised drawings. It felt safer to get your scene roughed out on twos and once it was approved let him do a few key clean ups and then adjust the inbetweens. You were responsible for the shot until it went through trace&paint, everything on ones. You had assistants to help you with inbetweens, but there was no clean-up department.

I forgot to mention that clean-up on the Thief meant clean-up ready for trace&paint. Previously the craft of tracing animation drawings onto cel had not been practiced much since Disney introduced the xeroxing process on One Hundred and One Dalmatians .
All the drawings had to have a very clear pencil line, but you could have color roughs under the drawings. Another thing that contributed to the quality was that we worked with enormous scope field sized paper, keeping line thickness and wobble really low.


David Nethery said...

"You had assistants to help you with inbetweens, but there was no clean-up department."

I think this used to be more common in the 70's and 80's in British animation and in Canada , too . I started in my first professional job as an animator in 1984 in Canada and this was the system we used . The Animator was responsible for drawing on-model and cleaning up the Key poses. The Assistants would do the breakdowns and inbetweens.

Later on when I moved to L.A. I learned the Disney hierarchy system of Rough Animator --- to --- Key Clean Up----to ---- Assistant----to---- Breakdown---to---- Inbetweener . Then when I was on Roger Rabbit in the L.A. unit under Dale Baer I remember that many of the Disney-trained artists were genuinely baffled to hear that the London crew had the Rough Animators doing their own Key Clean Up drawings . It just wasn't done that way ! Animator's cleaning up their own key drawings ? No way !

So I've always thought of this procedure as the British (and Canadian) way of doing things. Was it common in other British studios ?

Russian Insider said...

David, do you mean that at Disney inbetweens were drawn clean at once? Or the hierarchy system was more complex?
Rough animator -> Key Clean Up -> Rough (?) Breakdown -> Rough (?)Inbetweener -> Clean Up of breakdowns and inbetweens

andreas said...

this was my first job in the industry and certainly influenced the way I work up to this day. for better or worse, I animate very cleanly and don't leave much guesswork for a clean-up artists following me up.

David Nethery said...

Hi, Russian Insider,

By the time I was at Disney the usual method was that the Rough Animation was animated and rough inbetweened completely before being passed along to the Clean Up Dept. , where the first person to touch it would be the Key Assistant Animator (some animators did their own rough inbetweens and some had a rough inbetweener work under them) .

The Key Assistant would clean up the main Key drawings and make any adjustments to put the key drawings on-model . The Assistant animator would clean up the other Extreme drawings that the Key Assistant did not do. Breakdown artist would clean up the important inbetweens (breakdowns) , and the inbetweener would fill in the remainder of the charted inbetweens , sometimes working clean directly in graphite , sometimes using the rough inbetweens to guide their clean-up inbetweens, depending on the action . This was not the case on every clean up unit ... some units would consist of only an Assistant and an Inbetweener. The Assistant would clean up all the Keys/Extremes and the Inbetweener would clean up everything else. But yes, there was usually a more complex hierarchy, especially on the big clean up units .

As I understand it , in the system that the London group was using on Roger Rabbit most of the Animators would rough animate their scene, then the animators would go back over their roughs to clean up their own rough Key drawings, then the Assistant animators would do the other clean up drawings inbetween the animators clean keys. This was very different than the Disney system where an animator would never (or almost never) do a clean up drawing. Clean up was supervised by Key Clean Up specialists , who had additional assistants, breakdown, and inbetweeners following them .

Of course, this was different than the approach to clean up or "touch up" in the sketchy line Xerox era (from 1960 to the late 70's ) at Disney.

David Nethery said...

Not to take this too far off-topic from The Thief into a discussion of the minutia of different approaches to Clean-Up, but I have found that the distinction between the positions of Key Assistant and Assistant tended to be more common at the big feature studios such as Disney or Dreamworks or Bluth's , whereas on shorts and commercials there was not usually a separate position noted as "Key Assistant" that was distinct from "Assistant" . In some studios the Assistant helped out with both the rough inbetweening and then would go back and do the clean ups after the scene was approved in rough . In most ways there is no practical difference between what a Key Assistant does and what an Assistant does, but the Key Assistant position tended to be more of a supervisory role , so the Key Assistant was considered the most experienced or senior Assistant of the group, responsible for supervising the work of other Assistants. At Disney's (and Dreamworks, Warner's , Bluth's/Fox feature studios) there was even the further distinction of "Lead Key Assistant" or "Supervising Key Assistant" as a job title to denote that the Lead Key was the head of a larger group of clean up artists usually working on a particular character on a feature . A lot of specialization and division of labor. So, yes, a more complex hierarchy .

I just thought it was interesting that the system they used on The Thief (animators cleaning up their own key drawings) was the same system that I encountered earlier on in my career working in Canada and the same system that was used under Richard's direction of the main London crew on Roger Rabbit.

Holger said...

Thanks David! I'd like to add that one factor in american feature animation in the 90's was the move to digital painting. The systems used by the big studios are very unforgiving of little imperfections that where not a problem on a xeroxed film like Roger Rabbit. All lines need to be perfectly closed off and keeping colored roughs under the drawings is mostly not possible. There is a need for new sheets of paper for every clean-up drawing.
Basically the drawing work is done twice, especially if the animator works tight like Andreas described.
I think it is possible though to use animation drawings that are not clinically clean. Using layers in Photoshop I can get a drawing of any quality painted. It just takes longer.
The drawings in Triplets of Belleville looked as if they used a pretty good approach.

Niffiwan said...

What approach did "The Triplets of Belleville" use for colouring, Holger?

David Nethery said...

"one factor in american feature animation in the 90's was the move to digital painting. The systems used by the big studios are very unforgiving of little imperfections that were not a problem on a xeroxed film ... All lines need to be perfectly closed off.

Oh, you're definitely right about that . The digital ink & paint systems (which , on the whole , were able to restore a lot of the look of the "hand-inked" luster of the earlier films) did effect how the clean up was handled, and not always for the better. A super clean "line quality" sometimes became more of a factor than good drawing .

Overall I'm a fan of the rougher line approach (101 Dalmatians, etc.) and as you said

"The drawings in Triplets of Belleville looked as if they used a pretty good approach."

So , I'm glad to see that many digital applications are now allowing ink and paint to go back to a more "organic" look , rather than everything having to be so clean and tied-down .

However, hand-inked has it's own beauty and I love the way it was used in The Thief . There's a certain look to real hand-inked cels that isn't quite the same with the super-tight digital ink & paint systems

Holger said...

I don't know, maybe one of the guys working with Sylvain in Scotland could reply to that.