Week 5

Experimenting frame by frame animation

For this experiment, I wanted to do something around frame by frame animation, this is because my main interest is around animation, especially 2D animation and the main two types of 2D animation are frame by frame animation and vector based animation, so I intend to do experiments on both of these types to learn more about them for my FMP, that way I can decide on which type of 2D animation I want to do.

Examples of people with similar discipline

Adventure time

I chose this cartoon because it is a very successful frame by frame animated show that has a big fan base. I knew it well however I have never really done research into how it is created, so I saw it as a good chance to do research into something I already knew, allowing me to understand the process a lot easier.

Each episode of adventure time takes roughly about nine months to produce, it first starts out with a meeting in the writer’s room “with the series creator Wad, producers Adam Muto and Kent Osborne, and staff writer Jack Pendarvis”.  From the meeting, they create an outline for the story of the episode which is then sent to one of the four storyboard teams which work on visualising the episode outline. The storyboard team pitch to Osborne and each other to collect feedback, which is then taken back and worked on again to improve it.  “Then there’s a couple weeks where the board is sent to the Network for notes and it’s being prepared for a voice record.”

When the notes and voices are ready, the storyboards are assembled into an animatic which includes cleaned up drawings, poses and has dialogue. It is then contracted to Rough Draft Studios to animate; after it is fully animated, it is sent back and reviewed for any mistakes or if a scene wasn’t animated the way they wanted it to be. Then there is a few weeks of doing sound design and adding additional dialogue, and the episode is completed.

From this research I have learnt the main process of frame by frame animation, it starts with a script, which reviewed and polished up; then a storyboard created from the script, which creates an animatic for the animators to animate; then it goes through one last final reviewing and the last bits of sound and editing are added. I can use this information to create a more simplified process for a simple experiment on frame by frame animation.

Harvard reference:

Goldstein, R. and rich-goldstein-rgoldstein (2013) This is how an episode of cartoon network’s ‘adventure time’ is made. Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/19/this-is-how-an-episode-of-cartoon-network-s-adventure-time-is-made.html (Accessed: 30 January 2017).

Planning the experimentation

Question: Is using Acetate to create the main key frames of an animation, a effective process to use?

My plan:

  • Create the key frames of a walk cycle on acetate
  • Photocopy the key frames and bring into Photoshop
  • create the in-between frames of the walk cycle
  • Reflect on the finished product

Methods I will use:

  • Use a sharpie to draw on the paper on the backs on the acetate, then draw onto the acetate. That way, I can correct any mistakes when first creating it.


  • Graphics tablet
  • Photocopier

What I hope to discover:

I hope to discover if using acetate to create the key frames is an effective process in frame by frame animation.

Result and reflection

Here is the finished product:

Here are the photocopies of the acetate key frames:

I believe this experiment was very successful in finding what I wanted to know and more, I found that using acetate was a longer process, however it allows me to get a clearer picture of how the character would move and how the finished product would look. I also learnt about a character’s walk cycle, if you are going to loop the animation to make the walk cycle longer, the animation will need at least 6 key frames, I made the mistake of only making 3 key frames. I can apply this knowledge to my final major project, if I decide to do frame by frame animation for a character; I would know that if I use acetate, I can get a clearer picture of what the character would do however the process would take longer.

Experimenting with vector based animation

Examples of people with similar discipline


The reason I chose to research Archer is same reason I chose to research Adventure Time, Archer is a very successful show which uses vector based animation and I watch it, making it easier for me to understand the processes of creating the show as I already know what elements the show contains.

The animation process is separate from the drawing, “the drawings are done based on the storyboards and the illustration director also sort of directs drawing sequences. We use Adobe After Effects for the character acting, which is almost more similar to 3D animation than it is to traditional animation because we are essentially creating rigs, like 3D character puppets, but we are doing it in 2D.  That allows us to work very quickly and it allows us to add various subtleties that we wouldn’t be able to do with traditional animation.”

The backgrounds of archer are actually 3D environments, that are then rendered out in a camera angle, then painted over to match the art style of the show. “The way we get a design going is Chad Hurd and I will work on something that we think best suits the needs of the scripts and the aesthetic that Adam is going for in his scene.  We’ll get his thoughts on it and once a design is locked, we give it to our 3D team and they build that environment.  Once it’s built, we can put our camera anywhere inside it and kick out a render and then pass it on to our background team, our painters, who paint over that render.  So, it’s not just an out-of-the-box render that goes straight to television.  It goes through our painters first so it looks more like a painting than it does a stale 3D render.”

“Adobe Illustrator is where we’re building all of the elements for the character rigs.  We’ll draw Archer standing in a tuxedo, but that one illustration of Archer in his tuxedo is split up into several different layers, so that his hand is on a layer, his forearm is on a layer, his bicep is on a layer, etc.  In After Effects, we’ll link those three layers together, so that when I move the bicep, the forearm and the hand move with it.  It becomes like a puppet rig.” Also the rig for the heads are known to be very complicated and is a long process to develop.

From this I have learnt what software they use for animating which is Adobe Illustrator and After Effects. They use Illustrator because it can easily create smooth rounded elements for the character, such as the characters mouth, eyes, head, hands, etc. Another reason why they use Illustrator is because the files are compatible with After Effects, making it easy to transfer the characters elements to After effects to be animated; the files also keep the vector measurements from Illustrator, allowing the images to be changed in size without worrying about it losing quality.

Harvard reference:

Animating ‘Archer’ (2015) Available at: http://www.awn.com/animationworld/animating-archer (Accessed: 31 January 2017).

Planning the experimentation

Question: How difficult is it to do vector based animation?

My Plan: 

  • Experiment around with illustrator to learn the basics
  • Design the parts of a simple character
  • animate a walk cycle

Methods I will use:

  • I will use the Illustrator to design the parts
  • I will use the internet as a secondary research source if I need to know anything about Illustrator
  • I will use After Effects to animate


  • graphics tablet

What I hope to discover: 

I hope to discover a formula on using Adobe Illustrator when it comes to doing vector based animation.

Result and reflection

Here is the finished result:

From this experiment I found that it was little more difficult than I expected compared to frame by frame animation; this is probably because I have more experience with frame by frame animation, along with more knowledge of the process of frame by frame animation. However I believe I did pretty well with this animation and I was able to learn a lot more about how to use Adobe Illustrator, such as how to use its tools, layers and how to transfer its files to other programs such as After Effects. I was also able to practice more on using After Effects, such as animating paths for objects, using key points and using the anchor on the objects.

I believe that this experiment was a success as I was able to find out how difficult it is to create vector based animation, I was able to learn more about Illustrator and After Effects whilst also putting both of them into practice. I can apply this to my FMP if I decide to do vector based animation for the project, along with also maybe using Illustrator for other things in the project such as if I need to create a logo, etc.

Harvard reference:

Price, D. (2012) The beginner’s guide to adobe illustrator. Available at: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/getting-started-with-illustrator/ (Accessed: 31 January 2017).

unlokia (2011) How to save your adobe illustrator file for import into after effects, preserving layers. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2Uwdr2M53M (Accessed: 31 January 2017).

SonduckFilm (2016) Illustrator to after effects Workflow: Vector icon animation design. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM7WOMWoNLM (Accessed: 31 January 2017).

Experimenting with 3D backgrounds

From the vector based animation, when I was researching a similar discipline, I found it interesting how the show Archer creates its own backgrounds by first creating a 3D environment, picking a camera angle, render it and then paint over it to give it the same art style of the show.

Examples of people with similar disciplines

Planning the experiment

Question: Is creating a 3D environment and then painting over it, a effective way of creating 3D backgrounds for 2D animations?

My Plan:

  • Create a simple 3D environment and render it out
  • choose a theme
  • Paint over the render to add colour and shading based on the theme
  • Get some feedback on it from a peer
  • Reflect on it

Methods I will use

  • I will use 3Ds max to create the 3D environment
  • I will use Photoshop to paint over it


  • Graphics tablet

What I hope to discover:

I hope to discover an effective process in shading and colouring a 3D environment.

Result and Feedback

Here is the 3D environment I created:


Here is the final result:


The feedback I got from my classmate was very positive, he said he found that using this technique really drawn out the perspective of the background and can see how this technique can be used in animation. The only criticism he had was on the lack of design but because the experiment was only to see if using a 3D environment would help on creating perspective on the background.


From this experiment I have found that this method of creating backgrounds is very good when trying to create a background with perspective, the only down fall is that it takes more time to create as first the 3D environment has to be made, then the lighting has to be sorted and finally be painted or drawn over in Photoshop. I also learnt that I need to go back to 3Ds max and practice a couple of things, such as how to create a room sufficiently, how to use a couple of tools, how to use lighting more effectively, etc. I can apply this knowledge to my FMP if I need an effective way of creating a background and what I need to do if I choose this process of creating a background, such as what I need to learn and practice on.


Reflection on this week’s work

This week was very productive, I was able to learn a considerable amount about my chosen discipline, 2D animation. I learnt more about the two types of 2D animation, frame by frame animation and Vector based animation; along with other things to do with animation such as a process to create backgrounds which uses a 3D environment. I can use this information on my FMP as it will be based on one of the two 2D animation types and I can apply the background process to both of them if I decide to use it for my project.


2 thoughts on “Week 5

  1. Jack, again there is some evidence of good work here and what you have produced is relevant and purposeful. However, your work is incomplete, with some examples of your experiments missing and unfinished explanations and evaluation. Once again, you also need to contextualise your work – there is no introduction here or any explanation of why you are undertaking these tasks and this research. Why did you choose to investigate these particular examples (Adventure Time and Archer)? What did you hope to learn? Why did you choose to experiment with acetate (what is the context in terms of animation and its history)? What did you hope to learn from this and how did it compare with the other processes you used?

    You must make sure that you structure your work with care and that it is complete. I will review your blog again at the end of the week, so make sure that you complete these posts, addressing the issues raised above.


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