John K. Drops Flash for Toon Boom Harmony
John K. has recently made the transition from Flash to Toon Boom Animate Pro then Harmony. “Already during the production of the first Ren and Stimpy season, I started thinking it would be great if someone would create a program that allowed you to not only ink and paint but to do the whole process of animation directly on the computer,” states John K.
“Flash always seemed to me to be a program that was not designed for animation but was the only one that you could bend to do it. When I use Flash I am forcing it to do things that it’s not really capable of. I have to trick it into faking what I want. Jean Raymond [Lemieux] came by a couple years ago and installed Animate Pro on my computer and showed me the basics - an exposure sheet (which Flash doesn’t have), the brushes and the camera. I started drawing and right away saw how much easier it was to draw and animate. The brush tool is infinitely superior and I was able to quickly animate some stuff and play it back,” he explains.
“When I use Flash I am forcing it to do things that it’s not really capable of. I have to trick it into faking what I want.”
As a traditional animator going paperless, there are several aspects of Harmony John K. appreciates. Let’s start with the first one, the Brush tool. “Once I got used to drawing with the brush in Harmony, I realized that I could almost animate straight ahead with clean lines. In many instances, with no roughs at all! Not only that but I can do it with a perfectly clean thick and thin line as if I was inking with a real brush. I’ve never been able to ink well with an actual brush, but now I can make my animation drawings look like illustrations or comic book inking. This can save a lot of time in clean up because the animator can combine multiple steps into one.”
Another aspect relates to colour lines, colour palettes and changing colours. “I like to use coloured lines on my characters and Harmony makes this really easy to do. You can name each colour by character and part - “Furry Man eyes” or “Furry Man Pupils” and then draw the animation in the actual colour. You can create multiple colour palettes, one for each character and you can constantly add colours to it as you go. If later I want to change the colour, I can do it right on the colour swatch itself and I don’t have to go back and repaint every cel individually. This is a great tool and allows me lots of creative leeway. I can easily change colours from scene to scene according to the mood of the scene.”
Then comes Harmony’s Layers. “I like to combine straight ahead full animation with classic limited animation techniques. I can create a character using multiple layers-one for the body, one for each arm, each leg, the head, the mouth, eyes, etc. This could become an unwieldy mess when you have more than one character in a scene and each character has multiple layers. But in Harmony, you can group all the layers of a character into a folder (called a “group”) and only open the layers of one character at a time as you work on it. You can also colour the timeline of each character so that when you see a lot of layers open, you know right away which layers are what character instantly.”
Last but not least, John K. discovered a new array of capabilities related to Harmony’s camera and pegs: “I have found that there are a lot of interesting ways you can move characters and do zooms, north south actions and more by giving each character his own set of pegs and one overall set of pegs for the whole scene.” John K. has put Harmony to work on a series of Adult Swim shorts for Cartoon Network. He started working on a new project that will certainly draw a lot of attention so make sure to stay tooned to his blog!johnkstuff.blogspot.com
About John K.
Originally from Canada and born as Michael John Kricfalusi, John K. is now based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show, its adults-only spin-off Ren & Stimpy “Adult Party Cartoon”, The Ripping Friends animated series, and Weekend Pussy Hunt , which was billed as “the world’s first interactive web-based cartoon,” as well as the founder of animation studio Spümcø. He now works on several projects such as commercials, rock videos, station IDs for Cartoon Network and other networks.