Create Faster and Better Mixing Cut-Out with Frame-by-Frame Techniques

"My workflow has speeded up considerably since I started using the peg and layers system." — George Roberts, Animator, Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Teacher

Create Faster and Better Mixing Cut-Out with Frame-by-Frame Techniques

How long have you been in this profession?

I'm in my first year since leaving university

What are your most important accomplishments?

Self producing all of my short films myself, including writing, sound recording and directing. Also, generating interest in animation with young school children, it was very rewarding.

History with Toon Boom Animate:

I acquired Toon Boom Animate 2 for the second half of my university course in 2012, mainly because of my positive experiences using Toon Boom Studio 2.5 since I was 11 years old.

Do you create your animations using Toon Boom Animate only?

No, I also draw my backgrounds on paper.

If not, what other applications are you using?

I scan the background art in and colour them in Manga Studio. I edit the film with a lite version of Sony Vegas. The audio is recorded with Reaper. This has proved to be a very effective way of creating great quality work on a budget.

Why did you choose to combine these products?

Cost and functionality. Manga Studio provides a competitive and effective alternative to Photoshop's bitmap colouring ability (which I used in university for my graduation film). I still draw my background art on paper because I prefer the tactile nature of this method.

Please describe your workflow

Predominantly I begin by designing some characters by playing around with shapes. To me, the finished characters hint at a particular story, which I begin writing by drawing a very rough storyboard and script. I have also adapted well-known stories into animation, such as Charles Dickens' 'The Signalman' and other people's short stories. From this I record the character voices and soundtrack, with my dad as the sound engineer. This provides me with the timing for the animatic, which uses the rough storyboard drawings.

Once I'm happy with it, I calculate how many backgrounds are needed and draw them all in a sketchbook, scanning them in as I go. Once coloured, I create a network of folders, one for each shot, which includes the background art, Toon Boom save file, and snippet of sound for that shot. I do this as it makes it extremely well organised and easy to find what you are looking for, and easy to backup on various media.

In Toon Boom I create a rough animation using key frames only, to the snippet of sound for that scene. I then use this to make a rigged character; a layer for each body part, and frame by frame animate each one. I do this because of Toon Boom's powerful Peg system, which gives a lot of control over the character. If any one piece needs changing I can now edit that one body part instead of having to draw the whole image again. The background is then imported and I apply any effects to the scene. It is then exported as an image sequence into the editing application.

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What kind of animation do you create?

At the moment its a combination of many digital and traditional techniques, primarily cut out with frame-by-frame layers.

What animation technique are you mostly using (i. e. cut-out, paperless, traditional)?

Apart from the background art, my work is paperless. But I do like to use all techniques depending on the effect/style I am after.

What are your top five favorite features:

in Toon Boom Animate:

  1. The peg system.
  2. The rotary light table.
  3. The perspective 3D camera view
  4. The self-smoothing brush tool.
  5. The ability to paint all frames at once (has been extremely helpful)

in other application(s):

  1. Bitmap digital painting
  2. The choice of file extensions
  3. Editing sound
  4. Editing video
  5. And, for the moment, cost
What Toon Boom Animate features allow you to distinguish your animation productions?

Animate has allowed me to work very quickly and efficiently, and produce work in the way I want to. It has also allowed me to realise the designs of my characters quicker. Obviously, the more recent upgrades and Pro versions would allow me to have greater creative control and try out different effects, which are not functions of Animate.

Did you experience any productivity gains in using Toon Boom Animate?

Of course. My workflow has speeded up considerably since I started using the peg and layers system, which allowed me to create a graduation film that was longer than I thought possible in the given time frame.

Are you more efficient today compared to your production toolset used previously?

Previously I worked on paper and coloured frame by frame with image editing software, which took a long time. The option to paint all frames at the same time with the push of a button was a life saver!

Is it possible to get the same results with other digital animation software?

I have been trying different animation software for the past 10 years and have yet to find anything that is as all encompassing as Toon Boom Animate. It would not have been possible for me to create the work I have in the same way, and to the same quality, with other products. I also have to mention how clean and well organised Animate is compared to other animation software.

How do you feel about Toon Boom Animate?

It's absolutely fantastic, especially what you get for your money. Having tried trial versions and watched the promotional videos, I can only dream of what I could achieve when I eventually get Animate Pro / Harmony Stand-Alone.

How was your learning curve? Have you used the video tutorials?

Because I had previously being using Toon Boom Studio 2.5, the learning curve for me was virtually non-existent. Whenever I thought “I wonder if Animate could do........”, I was pleasantly surprised every time. A very intuitive programme. Any video tutorials I have watched have been to pick up new tips and tricks, rather than to find the answer to something I don't know.

Equipment used:

I used my student loan to buy a Wacom Cintiq 24HD, which has also helped to greatly increase my productivity, alongside Animate

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About George Roberts

George Roberts is an animator and illustrator from North Wales, UK. He graduated from the North Wales School of Art and Design - Animation course. Between freelance projects he works on developing short animated films and characters.