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Ritchie.Thai

An Argument for the Potential of Skeletal / Paper Cutout Animation

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People hating the skeletal / paper cutout animation approach DFA's using, and I think done well, this approach could look very close to flipbook / frame by frame / traditional animation. I agree flipbook looks better, but I want to show skeletal's full potential.

An Example

Here's a

. I know not everyone likes the show, but I haven't heard criticisms of its animation, and that's all we're discussing. I chose this instead of a real episode because we can see behind the scenes work of the cutouts (link) and ways those cutouts were arranged into keyframes (links 1 2 3 4).

We see that many poses were made, but they were made from the cutout pieces, not drawn individually. There are also multiple versions of body parts for different poses which shown in sequence resemble flipbook animation, but this is limited to pieces. An actual My Little Pony animator verifies that the real show also uses a combination of both skeletal paper cutout animation and traditional flipbook animation, but this fan animation gives us more detail. I don't have a solid animation background but I used Flash a lot when I was younger, reading about and making animations, but I hope professionals on this forum who know better can chime in.

DFA's Technology Can Do This

DFA can create many key frames, and they can use different versions of body parts as the latest programming update #4 explained using the example of multiple hand poses. What's uncertain is whether the animators will animate in this way, but the technology looks ready. I'm personally satisfied even by the pre-visualisation videos, but I think there's potential for this to look about equal to flipbook animation.

Discuss. (Edit: Original post heavily shortened.)

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I thought it might be the first time in the history of life on earth that someone had said "Potential of Skeletal", so I googled it to find out, but midway through it suggested "membrane potential of skeletal muscle". I think the animations they've shown look great!

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Regardless of the subject matter involved, that pony animation is solid. (maybe the strangest sentence i've ever typed?)

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The only people who hate a show that is for five year old kids that is spammed all across the internet constantly being used to troll people are the immature ones? Well okay then.

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The only people who hate a show that is for five year old kids that is spammed all across the internet constantly being used to troll people are the immature ones? Well okay then.

Those are knocks against the phenomenon that the show has created and the fandom around it, but it doesn't say anything bad about the show itself. Hating the fans and the phenomenon surrounding it isn't the same as hating the actual show. I'll edit the post noting that if it helps.

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I'm definitely not the best judge of animation quality, but I can't really tell the difference between really well-done skeletal animation and flip-book. Even in its early stages, the animation doesn't look so bad to me. My first reaction to seeing the Lumberjack's walk cycle was "cool!" I understand some of the criticism, but I don't understand some of the exaggerated "this has killed my enthusiasm for the game!" reactions.

The only people who hate a show that is for five year old kids that is spammed all across the internet constantly being used to troll people are the immature ones? Well okay then.

Yes, it's immature to hate it just because it's all over the internet. And if any fans of the show are being annoying, that has nothing to do with the quality of the show.

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The only people who hate a show that is for five year old kids that is spammed all across the internet constantly being used to troll people are the immature ones? Well okay then.

I guess I have to reply again and say that to be fair, I suppose it doesn't indicate that they're immature if they're hating the show, but I think hating the show is immature behaviour. I put it in such a blunt way in the original post because I seriously didn't think anybody would take issue, but it's probably better if I just reword it entirely because it's not what I want to discuss. It's that whole [adjective] people can behave [not adverb] thing. Mature people can behave immaturely. Smart people can do stupid things. Um... Brave people can get scared? Something like that.

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Why didn't the squid go to the prom?

.....

.....

Because he didn't have anyskeleton to go with!

Ba-dum cccccsssssshhhhhhhh

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I really like the technique they have chosen, which has the potential to be the best of both worlds. The smoothness and stretching can really create that sense of 'real-time' fluidity, and there is no limitation to how many unique frames the animator\s can create anyway which means the best case scenario for this approach is basically the quality and detail of full flip-book animation with potentially infinite FPS smoothing of limb movement. So it's really up to the animator\s how this will turn out. Of course there will be some amount of compromise seeing as the technique was chosen for it's time-saving potential. My only real desire is that they produce enough unique frames to create really expressive moments in the story. I can't say I'm worried... This is DF, they're going to make it look good how ever they do it.

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I'm fine with them using some skeletal animation, but they really shouldn't use it exclusively. I know the walkcycle they showed us was probably just a demonstration of the tweening/skeletal animation system they've put together, but it looked pretty bad and I really hope it's not representative of what the final art will be.

You can't just draw one frame and slide it around and expect it to look good. It ends up looking lazy and flat. Tweening should be used inbetween unique keyframes. Draw a few more positions of the arms/legs/head. There doesn't need to be 30 a second, but there should definitely be more than one.

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True story:

I wasn't sure before I typed that joke whether squids actually have some kind of skeleton or not, so I googled it, getting as far as typing "Do squi" before google suggested "Do squids have beaks?". Naturally curious, I learned that squids apparently have beaks. So they're not as smooth as I was expecting, but I reckon they still get a good 30 frames a second.

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I don't know why it's such a big deal. This kind of animation is far more prevalent than some folks may realise. My theory is that having the curtain drawn back shows that the Wizard is, sometimes, a kindly old man with a few parlour tricks up his sleeve..... and some prefer the mystery.

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An Example

Here's a

. I know not everyone likes the show, but I haven't heard criticisms of its animation, and that's all we're discussing. I chose this instead of a real episode because we can see behind the scenes work of the cutouts (link) and ways those cutouts were arranged into keyframes (links 1 2 3 4).

Yeah, we get it. This style of animation still looks incredibly cheap, including in this example, compared to solid frame-by-frame animation. It just isn't as good. Of course in this example, it's because one person is doing the animation and he doesn't have the resources to do it better.

Now, there are exceptions, particularly involving highly stylized characters. Yuri Norestein was a soviet animator who used cutouts to incredible effect. But you wouldn't use that as a substitute for traditional animation in 99% of cases.

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Yeah, we get it. This style of animation still looks incredibly cheap, including in this example, compared to solid frame-by-frame animation. It just isn't as good. Of course in this example, it's because one person is doing the animation and he doesn't have the resources to do it better.

Now, there are exceptions, particularly involving highly stylized characters. Yuri Norestein was a soviet animator who used cutouts to incredible effect. But you wouldn't use that as a substitute for traditional animation in 99% of cases.

What you say is fair. If you don't like it, then you don't like it. But when you say "Yeah, we get it," I suspect there are people who saw the pre-visualisation and don't realize skeletal animation can look much better than that. I don't think they get it. I'm sure there are also people like you who get it, but I think those who don't might feel better after seeing this.

Then if things go well, we get to the awkward situation where the majority of people are happy with the animation, but a portion of people are left unsatisfied. If things go bad, the majority are unsatisfied and Double Fine cries itself to sleep.

If you're still around, I mentioned that real episodes of My Little Pony similarly do a mix of frame by frame and cutouts, though I suspect the amount of frame by frame is far greater than what's used in this fan animation. Any opinions on the official cartoon's animation that you wouldn't mind sharing?

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Frame by frame animation hasn't been practical in the games industry since... forever, really. Practically all animation nowadays uses keyframes, it saves time and resources and usually looks just as good. Expecting animators to draw a thousand frames per scene is just silly.

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Frame by frame animation hasn't been practical in the games industry since... forever, really.

I think this is because they make a lot of it the wrong way. There are still people making sprites essentially using pixel art and at HD resolutions, it's just an insane amount of work. It's really not smart.

However, a good amount of film and TV animation is still done frame by frame, and since games no longer really have the same special technical limitations that necessitated pixel art in the first place (namely a need for a small color palette), these same processes are perfectly viable for game development now. The real issue is just that the people working in the game industry aren't trained in these processes.

Monkey Island 3 or Leisure Suit Larry 7-quality animation is not any more expensive to produce now than it was then, and in fact it's a good bit easier. The last programming update based its claims about flipbook animation on the assumption that all animation would be 30 unique frames per second, which is pretty ludicrous. The technical limits wouldn't be a real problem.

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I think this is because they make a lot of it the wrong way. There are still people making sprites essentially using pixel art and at HD resolutions, it's just an insane amount of work. It's really not smart.

I don't think anybody does this or has ever done this dude...

most hand drawn art in games (and even animated movies and shows these days) is definitely made with drawing tablets

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I don't know why people keep holding up My Little Pony as some kind of holy grail of Flash animation, I think stuff like Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends and Gumball do a way better job of it.

To me a lot of the prejudice against this cut out style seems to boil down to pure personal preference more than anything, I don't think there's any way you can objectively say beautiful cut out animation is worse than beautiful frame-by-frame animation. Yeah, it's great to see all the skill and hard work that's gone into making a traditionally animated piece but when you get right down to it, all that matters is that the animation delivers the point, the character, the joke, whatever, and in the hands of a good animator that's possible with virtually any technique.

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^Superjail was animated in flash and it looks better than all three.

Flash isn't inherently bad, it's just perceived as cheap these days because it's commonly associated with excessive tweening. Which looks cheap.

Just take a look at Adventure Time or Regular Show, two more traditionally animated shows currently airing. Take either of those and compare side by side with MLP and then tell me which looks better animated.

MLP isn't exactly terrible though, I think the DFA should strive to match it's quality at least. But the animation we've seen from the DFA so far has looked worse than MLP, it's looked like paper cutout animation.

And when it comes to portraying a real feeling of depth, cutout animation IS objectively worse than traditional animation. Which isn't to say that cutout animation is bad, I really enjoy the works of Lotte Reiniger and Karel Zeman (Reiniger's Prince Achmed is actually one of my favorite movies), but it has it's place.

If they do decide to go with cutout style characters, it probably won't be because of a stylistic choice (unless they're going for a paper-mario type theme, which I doubt)

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I think this is because they make a lot of it the wrong way. There are still people making sprites essentially using pixel art and at HD resolutions, it's just an insane amount of work. It's really not smart.
I don't think anybody does this or has ever done this dude...

Sure they do. BlazBlue springs to mind. King of Fighters XII/XIII as well.

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I don't quite understand what you mean. Do you think they sprited those pixel by pixel?

Because I just looked those games up and those definitely aren't pixel art. They may be pretty aliased, but it's obvious that they were hand drawn with a wacom tablet or something similar

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Frame by frame animation hasn't been practical in the games industry since... forever, really. Practically all animation nowadays uses keyframes, it saves time and resources and usually looks just as good. Expecting animators to draw a thousand frames per scene is just silly.

I don't think that's true. I think skeletal animation can be good (the reason I made the thread), but here's a list of somewhat recent games using traditional animation.

Games praised for their use of traditional animation: Skullgirls, Blazblue, The Whispered World

T.V. resolution games using traditional animation: Disgaea 4, Braid

Low resolution games using traditional animation: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Kirby Mass Attack

The praised games make traditional animation seem like a special exception in video games, and they do have particularly good animation, but there are other games that just use traditional animation without much fuss being made. The lower resolution games use traditional animation in a way reminiscent of animation from 8-bit and 16-bit games.

It's less common, but I think traditional animation still has a fair presence.

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I don't quite understand what you mean. Do you think they sprited those pixel by pixel?

I know for a fact that they were.

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I don't quite understand what you mean. Do you think they sprited those pixel by pixel?

I know for a fact that they were.

I don't know why you could say something like that without providing some evidence or arguments. How do you know? I tried looking into it myself, but I'm not convinced either way yet about whether they were done pixel by pixel.

I'm interested in hearing from you what the differences are between how traditional animation is being done in games compared to television. I've seen all the posts you made on Programming Update #4 as well, and you mentioned that Skullgirls was animated by T.V. animators so I've looked that up too.

BlazBlue Animation Process

Edit:

Oh, for a fact huh? Mind sharing your proof?

Well said, DOUGLAS. I took a while writing my response and didn't see yours. I do have some reason to believe Frogacuda might be right after looking at some images, but I'd like to see what Frogacuda has to say.

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I just checked your link and this caught my eye

1 – All the characters in BlazBlue start life as 2D concepts and each animation frame’s pose is drawn by hand.

So there we go. It was pretty obvious that they were just poorly anti-aliased, hand drawn sprites to begin with. Drawing pixel by pixel at that scale simply isn't feasible.

This thread has gotten kinda off topic. I'm a little disappointed that we're still talking about this

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Frame by frame animation hasn't been practical in the games industry since... forever, really. Practically all animation nowadays uses keyframes, it saves time and resources and usually looks just as good. Expecting animators to draw a thousand frames per scene is just silly.

I don't think that's true. I think skeletal animation can be good (the reason I made the thread), but here's a list of somewhat recent games using traditional animation.

Games praised for their use of traditional animation: Skullgirls, Blazblue, The Whispered World

T.V. resolution games using traditional animation: Disgaea 4, Braid

Low resolution games using traditional animation: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Kirby Mass Attack

The praised games make traditional animation seem like a special exception in video games, and they do have particularly good animation, but there are other games that just use traditional animation without much fuss being made. The lower resolution games use traditional animation in a way reminiscent of animation from 8-bit and 16-bit games.

It's less common, but I think traditional animation still has a fair presence.

That's... Exactly what I am saying. Are you sure you aren't qouting the wrong post?

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^Did you read his whole post? He's pretty much saying the opposite of what you're saying

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So there we go. It was pretty obvious that they were just poorly anti-aliased, hand drawn sprites to begin with. Drawing pixel by pixel at that scale simply isn't feasible.

I don't think you really understood the article. They draw the base, make a 3D model, do a sort of cel shaded line art pass of that, and then actually do a pixel art pass over top of that image. It's a ridiculously inefficient process. King of Fighters XII/XIII does the same thing. The final pass is still pixel art, and it's still a ridiculous amount of work.

Skullgirls does not do it that way, and their process is actually more efficient and looks better.

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