Going Bananas With Rotoscoping

This tutorial shows you how to create pitch perfect timing, motion, volume and proportion, while learning the basics in breaking down movement.

So, you like animation, but you don't know how to draw? You would like to animate but don't know how? You would like to create a very realistic animation, but are at a loss as how to do it? Animating a four-legged creature can be overwhelming. Rotoscoping answers all of these problems.
Click to watch demo

With Toon Boom Studio, learn how you to animate characters, effects and props by referring to live-action videos with these tips and tricks about Rotoscoping.

What is Rotoscoping?

Rotoscoping is an animation technique where the animator traces over each frame of live-action movie to reproduce a realistic movement. This technique was invented by Max Fleischer in 1915. The movie was projected frame by frame on glass and the animator would draw over it. The equipment used to do so is called a rotoscope. Today, the rotoscope has been replaced by the computer and a virtual form of rotoscoping is now used.

So what are the advantages of using the rotoscoping technique in your animation project?

  • Your motion will be very realistic
  • Your timing will be accurate
  • Your animation will maintain its proportion and volume
  • It helps you learn how to animate
  • It helps you to understand how to break down a movement
  • It helps you to animate very subtle motions, like a slight head turn or a slow raise of the hand

You can also superpose your character design and only use the motion but not the actual object, person or animal from the video.

Because rotoscoping is so realistic, it leaves little room for exaggeration movement, squash and stretch, or a very cartoony look, so you have to see if it suits your needs and the look of your project.

Selecting a Video

Selecting a video for your rotoscoping exercise is fairly simple.

  • Film the actions you need to animate yourself. For example, you could film your dog playing with a ball or a person running.
  • Find a free movie clip on the web
  • Your animation will maintain its proportion and volume
  • Purchase a royalty-free movie clip from a website.

Your movie format can be any of the following:

  • AVI (*.avi)
  • QuickTime (*.mov)
  • MPEG (*.mpg)
  • iPod (*.m4v)

However, if the movie clip is not the correct format, you can easily convert it using editing software.

Since you will be tracing over your video using vector based brush strokes, your clip doesn't need to have a very high resolution. Of course, higher resolution is better, since it provides more detail, but it is not a requirement. However a minimum resolution of 300 x 200 is recommended.

Importing the Video

When you create your Toon Boom Studio project, you can avoid having too many drawings to trace over by creating it using a 12 frames per second rate instead of 24 FPS. If your project has a 24 frame per second rate, twice as many images will be created out of the video you will be importing. In that case, you could trace a drawing every two frames and expose your drawings on double frames, but this is all up to you.

To import your video:

  1. In the top menu, select File > Import Files.
  2. Browse for your clip.
  3. Click on the Open button.
  4. In the Import Options dialog box, do NOT set an opacity value.
  5. Click on the OK button.

Setting the Tracing Brush

Before you start tracing your movie, we recommend that you setup your brush using the following suggestions:

  • Low Smoothness
    Using a low smoothness setting as you trace your animation stays closer to the actual line you traced and fits the live-action clip better.
  • Lively Tracing Colour Swatch
    As you trace your animation, create a colour swatch to trace your character with and set the colour to a bright blue, green or red, this will let you can see your outline better over your video.

Tracing the Monkey

When you trace over your imported movie, we recommend that you focus on one element at a time. In the sample used for this article, the monkey was traced first and then the bananas. This helps you keep a consistency between the different drawings you are doing. If the two objects or characters are interacting, it is best to draw them on the same layer.

If you do not want to spend a very long time tracing all your drawings, you could adjust the look of your scene accordingly. Tracing rough and sketchy lines over the video produces a very nice look. The final result is lively and interesting, especially if you are animating furry creatures.

Remember, when you trace over the character try to close your zones, this will eliminate a lot of gap closing and fine tuning later on in your animation.

To trace your animation:

  1. In the Timeline view, add a new layer to trace your animation.
  2. In the Colour view, select your tracing colour.
  3. If you work in the Drawing view, enable the Light Table to see the live-action frames.
  4. In the Camera/Drawing view, zoom into your image to see the details better.
  5. Trace your first frame.
  6. In the Timeline view, select the second cell and trace your second image.
  7. If need be, enable the Onion Skin to see your previous drawings.
  8. Repeat the process until the animation is entirely traced.

Fine Tuning the Animation

Once your animation is traced, it is a good idea to disable the live-action clip layer or turn off the Light Table and then go over your animation to fix the little details such as opened zones and uncompleted lines.

If you want your final project to be lighter once you are done tracing, especially if it is for output on the web, it is recommended that you select your lines and flatten them.

To flatten your drawings:

  1. In the Tools toolbar, select the Selection tool.
  2. In the Timeline view, select your first drawing.
  3. In the Camera/Drawing view, select your entire drawing.
  4. In the top menu, select Tools > Flatten.
  5. Repeat the process for all of your drawings.

Painting the Animation

You are now ready to paint your animation! To create your colour palette, you can use Toon Boom Studio's special dropper to pick colours from your live-action movie and paint your animation in the same colours as the clip.

To create your colour palette:

  • In the Colour view create and rename your new palette.
  • In the Colour list section, add a new colour swatch.
  • In the Camera view, display your live-action movie.
  • Double-click on the new colour swatch to display the Colour Picker window.
  • In the Colour picker window, click on the Dropper button.
  • In the Camera view, pick the desired colour.
  • Repeat the process until the colour palette is entirely finished.

You can now paint your animation and publish it!