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Animating a Small Fire

Learn about vector and bitmap brushes and animate a small fire from rough animation to cleanup using a production background from the children’s TV series, Microscopic Milton.

About the Author

David Bunting

David Bunting

Freelance Story Artist & SFX Animator

United Kingdom


Video Transcript

So let's have a look at the Drawing Tools available in Harmony for drawing and animating our fire.

There's two types of drawings we can work with. We've got vector and bitmap images. Both very different things. Very good for different types of drawing.

I'm going to open these up. Do a "V" for vector layer and "B" for bitmap. Click on the Bitmap Line Art. Don't need to worry about the Colour Art. Let's close that down and go into vector.

We can work with brushes and pencils, but vectors have one really thing in common, which is whatever you choose, you're working with a very fine line. And it's great for clean up. Great too for keeping our file sizes down. Everything is really crisp and clear.

However, it's not great for animating, because all I'm doing when I'm, you know, sort of looking at all these lines thinking: How does it look? And I'm forgetting about the main thing that I need to be thinking about, which is all about the forces that are making this fire work in the first place. Just can't be doing that when I'm thinking about the outlines.

When I first trained in Effects Animation, I had the opportunity to go to the Disney Feature Studio in Paris. See all these amazing artists and they're all sketching away with the side of their pencils. Slowly building up this image.

Now we can't work with the side of our stylus, on a Cintiq, but we can emulate that. So I'm going to select my bitmap layer and work with a soft shading brush. I'm going to go in with the blue first, just so I can sketch in the wave action.

So a fire, when you think about it, is actually like just a piece of cloth or anything else wrapping around here. So I'm going to do that very quickly to start with. So I'm not thinking about the fire shapes at all. Just a fire.

Although, you'll start to see that it's very characteristic already, that fire shape.

In case you're wondering, I'm using shortcut keys to flip from frame to frame. [F] to go backwards and [G] to go forwards. Doing that quite a lot. Just like flipping with a piece of paper.

Also got my Onion Skin turned on, so I can see the previous picture underneath.

Then now, I'm just going to start going in here and searching a little more. I'm not going to go too complicated, because this, this design, is bold,simple shapes. So I want to keep my fire in bold, simple shapes. I find it quite useful actually, to work with a few different pencils in hand. So for that, I'm going to go to my Tool Presets. [I could still make something]. I'm going to add this. Then I just got to remember that brush.

But now you see I've got two and I can switch and change, just by picking these pencils. So just working on this new layer. Could have tackled the main shapes first. And all the time I'm thinking about the volume and what's going on with the rough animation.

So here we go.

We got a cycle of the fire animation and I'm pretty happy with that.

I think that's going to work just fine.