Adam Yaniv, an animator at Rhythm & Hues by day, recently pointed me to this small personal project he created as an entry in Heinz’s Top This TV Challenge.
What’s notable about this spot is how he used a combination of 3D software and Flash to achieve the hand-drawn look. Cel shaders in CG programs generally bother me because in order to create a hand-drawn look, they attempt to mask the CG, and the end result is neither fish nor fowl. Yaniv, on the other hand, used CG only as a foundation to assist the hand-drawn process. He explained the pipeline to me via email:
“I use 3D as kind of my blue pencil phase, getting the characters down in simple shapes, animating their action in front of the camera and so forth. Then I move into traditional frame-by-frame cleanup, using Flash in this case. The key is that cleanup is done in the same exact way that it would be in 2D, no cut corners. Meaning that I make judgment calls on every frame pertaining to model, volume, line-quality and animation style same as I would in 2D. So I use the best of both worlds, it’s all in the technique.”
Yaniv has plans to use this process in future personal projects. He’s excited about the potential of the process citing its flexibility to make changes right through the end of production, the sped-up timeframe in which hand-drawn animation can be created, and the ability to distribute the workload across a team of animators.
It should be noted that Aardman’s recent multiple-award winning short The Pearce Sisters uses a somewhat similar technique, beginning with CG roots and ending up with a hand-drawn look. Though Yaniv’s technique isn’t groundbreaking, it excites me to see artists experimenting with the digital tools at their disposal and finding ways to make technology work for them. As more and more artists like Yaniv embrace hybrid approaches, we can finally put to rest the tired 2D versus 3D debate and recognize the possibilities that exist when digital and hand-drawn are combined.