smear-multiple smear-multiple

Smears, Multiples and Other Animation Gimmicks

Smears and Multiples

The geekiest, and therefore coolest, animation-related Tumblr I’ve seen: Smears, Multiples and Other Animation Gimmicks. Tumblr users are invited to submit their own examples of these animation ideas. The blog is run by Michael Ruocco, a promising recent grad of the School of Visual Arts whose knowledge of classic animation is second to none.

(Disclosure: Michael did some work for Cartoon Brew last year and has also assisted me on some of my recent book projects.)

  • EHH

    Good to see they use smears on CGI films.

    • Paul N

      Yeah, it’s too bad one didn’t get grabbed for the graphic above the text.

  • Love smeary well timed animation. Cats don’t dance has some great ones!

  • Brilliant.
    This is my new favorite blog! A million thanks.

  • Carolyn Bates

    That’s the coolest stuff ever!

  • James Ciambor

    I especially respect Micheal because most of today’s younger animators really don’t know much about the history.

  • James Ciambor

    Despite the lack of awareness the smear technique is still in wide use. As this pic demonstrates but obviously not as radical as the Jones cartoon. Since when did animation loose its anarchic quality?

    • Matt

      Ever since CG-3D came to town and everyone started getting outsider (IE:non artist/animator literate) physics consultants and anatomy specialists to overanalyse and scrutinise their work, and start to down play any of this vital “animation” sort of stuff.

      Am I saying getting that type of consultation is BAD?
      No, not when it’s simply a suggestion or an aid, but I have a problem with a degree to it’s become imposed on the medium, and therefore drowned out much of the other animation sensibilities.

      • Don’t blame the science consultants for the stylistic choices you see in movies. Those decisions are usually made by directors, art directors, production designers, and executive producers. Nobody’s imposing anything on anybody. People are just making the movies they want to make, the way they want to make them.

        I also don’t see how these choices are “drowning out” other styles. We’re living in a time of unprecedented stylistic exploration. Just look at the range of stuff posted here on the Brew, much of it from students! It’s inspiring, is what it is.

        It’s true that big-budget features tend to be more conservative stylistically than independent films and shorts. Partly that’s because of the need to keep an audience immersed in the story for 90 minutes, and partly it’s just institutional inertia. But a conspiracy of animation-hating scientists it most definitely is not. :-)

      • Matt Bell

        Cassidy, no one here ever mentioned any conspiracy.
        I fully agree and support what you’re saying and where you’re coming from. It is dependant on a whole lot of factors, you’re right. I was simply making a point in regards to a previous topic.
        I do agree, we live in the most exciting of times, with the greatest of tools, the most numerous of artists and the greatest potential. There is a lot of fun happening in animation (that’s why I’m here). I’m just sad that diversity isn’t as prominent or as widespread as it should be.

        It’s also sad to see a stylistic dogma develop among the upper tiers of feature animation.
        It not only affects the western worlds perception of the medium, but also emerging animation markets and new generations of artists, like those in China, India and around the world. All of whom, rather than being true to and refreshing in bringing their own perspectives, visual history and production techniques to the screen, do so much to emulate the trends they see in Hollywood animation, simply because of the perceived ‘successfulness’ of this “one note” of animation, rather than playing any other note on the scale.
        That one particular note being: recreation over personal interpretation & representation, detail over suggestion through limitation, and factual descriptions rather than even mildly visually abstract or inventive ones.
        Even an attempt at minimal abstraction, such as a world of talking cars, seems to be met with a level or derision, largely due to its presentation.
        It’s a sign of the times and of the mediums lack of any further visual exploration or direction outside of servicing techniques which support live action integration, special effects & motion capture.
        With 3D-CG you are actually building and recreating objects, as apposed to simply representing them. The latter is intrinsic in 2D, where something is never ‘that object’, no matter how “realistically” you draw or render it; it’s still only ever a representation. But in 3D it’s actually built, textured, shaded and lit, and is dimensional pretty much like any real world object, even if you make a genuine attempt at caricature (which sadly, not everyone does).

        As you’ve pointed out, the response is typically:
        “Oh, well it HAS to be/look like that, it won’t hold anyone’s attention as a feature otherwise.”
        WHAT? I know damn well that it will!

        It’s not the authenticity of the technique that affects people; it’s the authenticity of the tale. The medium is just the conduit, and it can be anything, especially in the case of animation.

      • Matt Bell

        PS: In stop motion & claymation, the representational aspect comes from making the characters & sets out of “other things”, and being imaginative through that and creating *real miraculous miniature worlds*.

        It also doesn’t help that a large number of animated films today, Megamind for example, are absolutely incessant with their character dialogue and its explicit overuse use for story exposition.
        If we want this medium to be taken seriously, then we need to start making our films seriously (no, not overly serious), rather than making them seriously overproduced.

      • Matt, like Cassidy, I’m responding to this part of your post: Ever since CG-3D came to town and everyone started getting outsider (IE:non artist/animator literate) physics consultants and anatomy specialists to overanalyse and scrutinise their work, and start to down play any of this vital “animation” sort of stuff. .

        This is the kind of speculative nonsense that people who don’t work in the industry come up with. The reason early CG features rarely used smears and multiples and other character distortions is because the early CG rigs and pipelines couldn’t handle it. It was a technical limitation. Every scientific consultant I’ve ever interacted with has expressed a great love of cartooniness, and they understand as well as anyone that an animator’s goal is entertainment, not literalism (just as those same scientific consultants understood when they were called in for hand-drawn features).

        All the CG studios are progressively using more and more smears and distortions and multiples (the latter trick is still by far the hardest to get in CG). Why are we doing it more? Because the technical side is catching up, and animators have more and more capability to do it.

        Take a look at some of the recent cartoony work from Blue Sky, Reel FX, Sony in particular, just as some examples that come readily to mind (full disclosure – I’ve worked for two of those companies). Step frame through the DVDs. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll see. Even as far back as the original Madagascar (yes, I worked on that, too), where we had relatively limited ability to distort the characters and do smears, you can see from Michael Ruocco’s site that the film is full of them.

        You’re correct that there is a tendency to follow trends among some animation producers, and a tendency of some directors and supervisors to repeat themselves. But I think that was just as apparent during the decades of hand-drawn animation. And if you open your eyes and open your mind, you’ll see a huge and pleasing amount of exploration in CG animation happening right now.

      • Matt Bell

        Once again, everyone is dancing around the major points of my argument and focusing on my semantics. I’ll admit that I clearly misspoke in saying “Ever since CG-3D came to town”, I was very wrong in saying that, but the sentiment I was aiming for in my posts still stand, and in the interest of debate lets please discuss that.

        I am not anti scientific consultants and am not anti 3D-GCI (far from it), I’m simply frustrated by the visual dogma and have offer my own observations into why I believe that has developed, yet no one here has really focused on any of that.

        I do have a problem with the degree to which this anti-abstract image mentality *SEEMS* to have become imposed on the mainstream of CG3D animation (however it may have happened), where everything is more developed for and geared toward rendering the literal. Again, I’ve offered arguments for why that might be back in my 2nd post.

        Kevin, I am glad to see this techniques resurgence in the 3D features of today (all be it more subdued), but if your argument is that you simply weren’t able to incorporate these techniques into earlier animations due to the limitations of the developing 3D-CGI medium & the rigs, well I’d simply call that baloney. It was clearly a choice based on the medium and the advent of GCI motion blur, which made many consider the techniques above as somewhat superfluous. They obviously are not.
        In any form of image creation, from something as sophisticated as a dimensional modelling & animation program, all the way down to carving marks on a stonewall, you have the ability to put whatever you want in any frame. This is the great strength of the approach of animation over the approach live action, the fact that we tailor our images. For example: you could’ve painted in multiples, smears or stronger blurs, I have seen this done before. You could’ve render out multiple poses and merged them for a frame, duplicated limbs, added shapes, etc. There have also been other attempts at developing CGI smear-frame techniques through programming & simulation shown in a post here on the Brew on August 4, 2010. There has never been any excuse for a lack of it, difficulties or a lack of production practicality maybe, but it’s only ever been a choice, and I feel that particular choice has been made more and more in regards to the CG3D process and it’s perceived strengths than it has for any other reason.
        And that’s what I’ve been getting at.

        Kevin, few points of view are ever at the extremes of hard right or hard left, there’s usually always an intelligent compromise based on the context in which you are viewing something, the key is to try and arrive at that same context. I am not trying to simply be dismissive of anybodies work here, or the validly of consolation or of any particular process. I am simply sharing my opinions and thoughts on this subject, and I do so in the hope I can hear others. That’s what the internet is for, isn’t it?

      • Matt, I don’t think either Cassidy or myself were focusing on semantics or dancing around your arguments at all. I certainly was responding directly to what you wrote. You may not like what I wrote, but when you say my argument that technical limitations precluded extensive use of smear frames, distorted characters, and multiples in early CG animation is ‘baloney‘ you reveal an impossible stubbornness borne of ignorance. Put simply, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

        A statement like ‘In any form of image creation, from something as sophisticated as a dimensional modelling & animation program, all the way down to carving marks on a stonewall, you have the ability to put whatever you want in any frame can only be made by someone who has never animated professionally, or even worked as a professional artist. I suppose if Pixar had been comfortable on the production of Toy Story to produce one usable rendered frame a week, they could have included smears and distortions and generous squash and stretch in that film. So on a theoretical basis, you might be right that these kinds of character distortions could have been part of CG animation 15 years ago, instead of just the last few years. But on a practical level, you’re absurdly incorrect.

        You talk about an ‘anti-abstract image mentality’ and connect it with CG animation. The CG animation you’re referring to seems to be mainstream feature animated films done in CG. I think it’s easily demonstrated that there is hardly more abstract imagery in the mainstream, commercial hand-drawn animation of the past (Warner’s shorts, Disney’s features, and all their many imitators). While we can find satisfying exceptions, like individual frames in a Clampett or a Jones short, or rare sequences in a minor Disney film like Saludos Amigos, the vast majority of commercial animation from the past was somewhere between mostly realistic and cartoony realism. In fact, traditional Disney animators were much more prone to using dry brush techniques to emulate the motion blur they saw in live-action films than they were to use inventively distorted and smeared drawings and other ‘abstract’ choices.

        From an artistic and technical standpoint, we could have the same discussion of squash and stretch. Hand drawn animation is full of examples of this, and every animator working in the early days of CG animation understood and appreciated squash and stretch. But we were extraordinarily limited in our ability to apply what we knew, and you see precious little squash and stretch in the early CG animated films.

        Here are some facts, for someone who has done it. It takes about as long to make a distorted drawing of a character (one with either smear elements or squash and stretch) as it does to make a realistic one. The ‘pencil mileage’ is about the same. In practice, the former (the smeary, distorted drawing) is probably easier to draw, because it’s more forgiving. The distortion can cover some of the more fussy and unforgiving aspects of drawing a character. So in hand-drawn animation, it’s not only easy to use these tricks or tools or gimmicks, but it might even be easier that going the more realistic route.

        On the other hand, to do a good pose in CG and to also include squash and stretch and smears and multiple limbs/eyes/etc takes vastly more time and effort. On the first CG films I worked on, it was nearly impossible. Mostly you could not do it, and if you tried, the rig or the pipeline would break. This was not a matter of artistic taste, or some aesthetic or even technical choice. The decision was made by the state of the hardware and the software and was out of the director’s and designer’s and animator’s hands.

        Progressively, the CG tools have become better, but they’re still far from perfect. At Blue Sky, animators took to creating their own tools, and in some cases would go to the extraordinary trouble of putting lattice deformers on character parts and distorting them on a frame by frame basis. This is an advanced, time-consuming process that cannot even be attempted in many CG pipelines.

        More and more, animators are collaborating with riggers and TDs so that these tools are robust and accessible and usable, and we’re seeing even more smears/multiples/distortions in CG than were ever common in traditional commercial feature animation. Oddly, to me at least, many of the people who complained about the stiffness and excessive realism of early CG animation don’t seem to be pleased by this development.

        I think the key to your complaint is your statement, It’s also sad to see a stylistic dogma develop among the upper tiers of feature animation. I agree with you on this. But that stylistic dogma was at least as intense during most of the time when hand-drawn features were the norm, and has little to do with either CG animation, scientific consultants, or modern animator’s sensibilities.

      • Matt Bell

        Kevin, on that issue of smears, multiples & elongated frames in CG. You would never have needed to overuse them, just applied them subtlety & sparingly to a few appropriate places & frames so that they were felt & added texture to the motion, rather than flaunt their graphic strangeness in the way that some radical & funny 2D “cartoons” do, as shown on Mr Ruocco’s blog. So in that sense it probably wouldn’t have drastically slowed down the pipeline to the point where you could only “produce one usable rendered frame a week.” So don’t say that it couldn’t have at least been attempted in a production context (now or back then). But yes, it was on someone else’s dime & their time, and that’s fair enough, I do remember saying “difficulties or a lack of production practicality” somewhere. By the way, I AM glad to see what is happening with lattice distortions of the dimensional puppets in 3D. Do more of it & don’t put words in my mouth.

        You call me stubborn simply for my difference of perspective and context when talking about this stuff. Yes, I am talking generally when making some of these statements, I have never pretended to do otherwise. But I say them for a reason. I want these tools and this process to develop just as badly as you do, so it’s heartening to hear that it’s being considered and developed as strongly as you say. I may not have your depth of experience yet, or work in the mainstream ‘American’ industry as you do, but I do understand the differences between the realities of a production compared to the idealistic liberties of it not being on some else’s dime, I love the continued personal assumptions about the “fact” that I apparently don’t. But I’ll eat my humble pie and stow it because what I want to discuss, debate and get other voices on here is about the following.

        This stylistic dogma; playing this “one note” of animation, rather than playing any other notes on the scale. Recreation over personal interpretation & representation, detail over suggestion through limitation, and factual descriptions rather than even mildly visually abstract or inventive ones; in terms of their visual execution & the contest of the story & its world.

        Yes, the worlds of animated features today aren’t reality, but I just feel that they aren’t straying terribly far from it either. I’ll fully agree that this has applied to 2D features in a similar way, although they are a naturally more representational and subjective medium, as I’ve described previously.

        Would you consider that it might have a lot to do with the rendering and lighting techniques & choices applied to much of our modern 3DCGI, and the lack of a literal VS representational divide in that context?

        With dimensional form and essentially ‘live action’ cinema style lighting techniques, its not hard to see why these films tend to look the same, leading to the idea of this dogma of GC3D.

        I’m not saying it’s impossible to create or do something otherwise, I obviously HOPE that it is. Wouldn’t it be a thrill to get more of an illustrative quality, rather than simply photographic and “filmed” live actiony qualities, which 3DCGI seems to do so well these days.

        Does the computer graphics industry have a direction outside of servicing the techniques, which support live action film integration, special effects & motion, capture? As I’ve said, with 3D-CG you are actually building and recreating objects, as apposed to simply representing them. The latter is intrinsic in 2D, where something is never ‘that object’, no matter how “realistically” you draw or render it; it’s still only ever a representation. In 3D the thing is actually built, textured, shaded, lit and is dimensional pretty much like any real world object, caricatured or not. (though obviously ANIMATION would prefer caricatured)

        Despite their similarities, 2D & 3D are also so very diametrically apposed in some ways. Is it really possible to get ones sensibilities over to the other? As soon as you move the 3D camera, a flatly built illustration won’t work out of its intended perspective. It’s too “simple” to work dimensionally in that way, it’s a representation, and I think that is fantastic! It’s the best thing about 2D, & the reason why we should try to incorporated it more inside 3D elements & feature films in new & visually inventive ways. The closest 3D can probably get to a dimensional form of representation is wire like sculptures and shapes of planes in 3D space. But why would anyone ever want to do or see anything like that in 3D? *Cough* ;-) (this is the sort of stuff that makes me think that the best and most inventive film making is yet to come)

        Where are the artists challenging the technology?
        And are we challenging it enough?

        Again, it’s not the authenticity of the technique that affects people; it’s the authenticity of the tale. The medium is just the conduit, and it can be anything, especially in the case of animation.

        Kevin, Cassidy, I still feel that it’s worthwhile to broach these subject & these thoughts, even if they may be “wrong” or “out of line” in many of these more broadly painted assumptions. You can ignore me if you wish, or you can continue to contribute in the way that you have been. Either way I thank you for the time you’ve already given in replying. But wouldn’t you like to see more of this debate and self-scrutiny, which may or may not be lacking in the pipelines of large productions, who involuntarily influence the smaller & newer ones and where things start to become trends.

      • The Gee

        Quick question(s):

        By “recreation” what exactly do you mean?
        For some reason I want to see it as re-creation, as in making something which already exists.

        Or, are you just using the most common meaning?
        A short answer will suffice. No rush, no biggie.

      • Matt Bell

        Ha Ha, Doh.
        Gee, what I meant to say IS re-creation and not recreation. In typing my inner dialogue was clearing reading back to me what I knew I meant, while my fingers just typed without considering the word as it was being put down on the page.

        Also, in saying re-creation, I’m using it in the specific context relative to 2D and it’s representational quality. Creating something that’s dimensional & tangible (to an extent), VS something that isn’t.

        I realize that in something like sculpture, etc… you aren’t necessarily “recreating” things from the real world, but you are in affect creating something of the equivalent (a real world THING). Dimensional & tangible are they key words.

        Hope that sort of clears it up.

      • The Gee

        Well, actually, that is what I thought you meant.
        Most of what goes into hand drawn is re-creation though. It isn’t always literal, like the gist of your criticism of CG Object animation.

        If I had to put it a certain way, a lot of hand drawn, classical* animation is often figurative. And, I don’t mean to lay down a pun there. What I mean it is more like figurative speech. That’s kind of the nature of cartoons. It’s why the humor works and why the “magic” is often a goal and that is why fantastical stories can be told. You can just do almost whatever you please in cartoons. That can be well-done or done badly, of course.

        As for CG Object animation, I agree that realism can be a vexing element to mix into it. Charlie Chaplin acted like a clown but he didn’t need to dress up like one. I don’t know if CG needs to compete with handdrawn though. It is more like it is competing with stop motion and puppetry and live action. It seems like it aspires towards that and would it be improved by tacking on more things intrinsic or typical from handdrawn? I haven’t watched enough to say.

        Personally, I think the fewer adaptations that are taken on by animated features should yield a more diverse product. Better? I dunno. So, leave the more recent children’s picture books alone. Forget about continuing with the classic, older kids stories and make new stories.

        If you ask me, and no one does, most of the stuff made involving cartoons should be made for the the medium which they are intended and then they should stay there. If the creators are serious about making good things then there won’t be eyes on eventual adaptations they’ll just make Good Work. But, that is off-topic…..

        Not sure if I’m adding to this discussion or not. If not, oops.

        * by calling some hand-drawn “classic” animation, I am borrowing someone else’s term.

  • I don’t know if I’d call it a gimmick as smears and multiples help liven up the animation. They’re more like tools than gimmicks. It is interesting to see them all in one place though.

  • The Gee

    “more like tools than gimmicks”

    I agree and it is hard to not agree. But, instead of being considered a gimmick, isn’t it more like a cheat?

    It’s a good thing. The people Matt mentions may or may not see it as a good thing but cheats aren’t always bad…unless they are done badly.

    Like you note, Tony, it livens up the action and gives the animator, well everyone really, options to plan and to move the animation along and to help stagger what occurs in the cartoon, timing-wise.

  • Smears and Multiples are parts of the language of animation, as well as a Pas de Deux and a Headspin are parts of the language of dance, or an Apostrophe is part of written language. Use it where appropriate.

  • Oliver

    Film scholars David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson discuss the use of “smears and multiples” here:

    “Through trial and error Disney’s animators learned that rather strange single images will look exactly right on the screen”

  • The smear is one of the tools clients and agency people are constantly having removed from their commercials because they think the character is ‘off model’. A good director or producer might incise them to keep it. It’s not so much a gimmick as it is a style and came from studying blurred images in motion pictures caused by fast movement and slow film speeds. There was tons of dry brush work to get a nice blur during the 30’s & 40’s

  • Mac

    Thanks for bringing this blog to our attention. It’s great! Even when I was a kid I’d sometimes step frame through certain takes in cartoons to uncover the delightfully insane drawings I thought I’d just seen, often discovering that they were even more weird than I’d realised. There’s a period in Disney cartoons, around 1937, where the artists really seem to be pushing what they could do with squash and stretch. The most frequent extreme examples of this can be found in the wonderfully fluid “The Worm Turns” with many exaggerated individual drawings that have to be seen to be believed.

  • James Ciambor

    Matt I don’t agree entirely. Disney, Warner Bros., Osamu Tezuka,UPA, and Fleischer managed to make animation on par if not exceeding today’s work with a fraction of the tools. When adjusted for inflation the animators of Snow White namely Art Babbit were making much more money than today’s artists, because again with inflation Snow White is the highest grossing animated feature Walt could use the profits to court his best animators. I would agree however that its a greater period for women who on the wake of Snow White continued to be relegated to the Ink and Paint department despite being as proficient and as competent as the male artists. Even though Walt had the resources to improve lives for everybody. This lead to unionization in 1941. Which was also brought upon by Walt making a general but failed promise to everyone in the studio that through Snow White better working conditions and salaries. However I don’t see improvement in working conditions always effecting the quality. Although Mary Blair stylistic influence is clearly seen in Alice in Wonderland.

    I do agree that the upper tier of features are adhering to similar styles and trends however I don’t see many animation students really changing that they to have preferences for Anime and CGI two of the biggest trends in animation these. However with today’s advanced tools we could out merit the Golden Age if we put our minds to it but for whatever reason we are not do to not opening up our horizons even when they are abundant. In terms of character development, story structure, and diversity in the industry we are not making the same advancements we made half a century ago.

    Again the pic above is an example as to what animation has become. Jones used the Smear Technique to its extreme, I only see the Gorillaz video dancing around it and not exploiting it. Animation is about contradicting and bending the rules of reality with today’s technologies we could do this to a greater extent but we are not. I guess part of the reason is because we don’t have a grand enough artistic vision and don’t understand were the medium could go in the same sense that Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, or Osamu Tezuka saw. No living animator has the artistic vision they had and are much more aimless.

    Greatest time in terms of working conditions and technologies yes. Though in terms of overall execution and quality nix.

    • James Ciambor: “…Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, or Osamu Tezuka saw. No living animator has the artistic vision they had and are much more aimless.”

      We may never see a genius with the vision of Walt Disney again, but directors like John Lasseter, Bill Plympton, Brad Bird, and Hayao Miyazaki have tremendous vision and drive.

      • James Ciambor

        Again there’s just more aimlessness about what you want to accomplish and that not entirely certain about where to take the industry beyond just film making and even at that they seem to be adhering to cliches. They people you mentioned are starting to get up in years and while talented within a couple of decades might not be active.

        Though can you mention anyone besides Disney who initiated the modern theme park, selling their products in multiple venues (Cross Promotion), or where they the first to prove that Animation could have cinematic value. Mccay had a similar vision being quoted as wanting Ben-Hur in animation, but Mccay lets be honest had the vision but wasn’t the proper business man that Walt was. Fleischer and Tezuka also had greater artistic aims than today’s artists and essentially much of it never materialized due to not being business savvy. Sorry for sounding harsh I will admit they are talented and am a fan of all of the artists you mentioned. Though its not like there going to make as great advancements as Walt did.

        Matt was making a broad generalization when he said that today’s industry is superior. In terms of working conditions for women yes we have made inroads to improve and we are more politically tolerant. Yet we have so many tools yet we don’t accomplish things greater than the past and we amount to less than the old school animators did. Who had a fraction of what we have technologically. A lot of people that have analyzed Disney under Walt’s supervision and other old school animators admit that they did more with less technology.

        The reason is because we don’t use the tools to bend reality as much as possible which is animations purpose. Stop emulating reality and try to accomplish things that this world wont allow. It seems when comparing the smear technique Jones uses it much more effectively. The Gorillaz smear is much more conservative and subtle and the designs are more based on the human figure.

      • I acknowledged that Walt was an unrivaled genius. To make that a standard by which we rate today’s artists seems an unfair comparison. It’s bit like saying the current physicists don’t cut it because they aren’t the game changer that Einstein was.

      • James Ciambor

        The problem is that Matt made a generalization that today the industry is at its peak. On the contrary one while there are more technologies abundant we still don’t use them as effectively as the little resources they had at their disposal which they used to a greater extent. Part of the reason is because they had visonaries that had a long term vision and weren’t aimless.

        Again the pic above shows how conservatively animated the Gorillaz video is. In contrast to Bugs which uses Smear to its greatest potential. Partly this is because Jones perfected the technique and new what how he wanted to exploit it. It also it goes back to the Disney Squash and Stretch period if 1935 – 1938.

        Sorry if I was already singing to the choir, but really making generalizations like that doesn’t make you as historically aware as our pal Micheal is.

      • Matt Bell

        James, the peak of something creative is always going to be in the future, as long as you don’t screw up the present. We stand on the shoulders of giants. The millions who came before us and got us to where we are now. Their actions and achievements matter more than their names.

        Processes & techniques can go in and out of fashion for a variety of reasons, but good ones will never die. They’ll just be brought forward to the tools of the present. But don’t let that idea scare you, many of the tools we still use today have been around for eons.

      • James Ciambor

        Firstly most of the technologies we take for granted didn’t not exist as of a couple of decades ago. Prior to CGI becoming the tool of choice in the seventies and eighties Multiplane and many of its offshoots were the most sought after tool. Now its considered an embarrassment due to technological standards to use that instead of a computer. Even Disney broke their promise with Princess and the Frog which had elements of CGI and not exclusively traditional. Secondly as of 2011 we are far from the Golden Era of Disney or any other individual that truly shaped the industry.

        The younger crop from viewing their work do not have the same long term vision for the art-form that Walt or Fleischer had even when those two where in their youth they stood out more than today’s work. Does anybody have an artistic vision that can transcend past the sake of making films to help progressing society to new horizons? Walt had other long-term visions for other fields that started with his ambition for animation, Steve made a point if their will be a Walt its not just like someone that can come every generation. The main point is people like Walt are the most seldom things you can imagine, and you can’t compare today’s artists in the same context as him. Its like saying that today’s commercial artists are comparable to the Renaissance artists who with their many talents did not just revolutionize art like Walt their innovations were in other fields. Devinci studied Anatomy, Music, early-aviation, while Walt had countless of other endeavors outside of animation that are innovative.

        I’m sure because it will be long before the world’s apocalypse (I don’t believe the 2012 BS) that someday we will have the vision to propel us past the past. However 2011 is embarrassing we have some of most critically based programming based on toy merchandising, and television animation is a far-cry from the nineties. Pixar, Ghilbi, and Plympton are the only ones producing any work that will transcend generations to come and some of them probably wont be active in a couple of decades because many of them are getting up years. I’m a fan of the three but am facing reality because Myiazaki and Plympton are nearing seventy, and Pixar’s oldest staff are not to far behind.

  • Shmorky

    This is GREAT! My stuff is full of smears/multiples. I could fill many pages just with smears from The Flash Tub. The reason we use it is because at 24fps it just LOOKS GOOD. When a character goes from one pose to another there needs to be a big smear in the middle otherwise they’re just blinking in and out of space-time!

  • The Gee

    Shmorky, well, that’s the thing: smears and multiples are a part of pose-to-pose and sometimes used for quick actions.

    Admittedly, I haven’t looked at the linked site yet so I don’t know what is up there beyond what I’m guessing is the Dover Boys because it seems to be the Jones cartoon people are referencing. I’ll get around to looking eventually.

  • Shmorky

    The Gee: exactly. It must be used for quick action to fill the gap between two different poses. If we just fill the gap with a normal in-between then the image looks like it is stuttering/flickering. It becomes stiff. A lot of prime time animation looks rigid because they don’t use smears/multiples (it’s even being phased out on The Simpsons.)

    • The Gee

      “A lot of prime time animation looks rigid because….”

      Well there is character design, too. How it is animated starts with that.
      If the designs can allow for pose-to-pose to be used often then I’m sure it is even in tv animation.

      One thing that Matt mentioned upthread was “Once CG came to town…”*

      I’m wondering if at some point TV animation began using these techniques less often, maybe in the late 60s or beginning in the 70s. But, I am sure others know if that is the case and is worth pointing out.

      I just bring it up because I don’t think abandoning the technique began once CG began being used for feature animation, or in general.

      *That phrase would make a good start for a story.

  • That website is great. I enjoyed looking through that.

  • Actually, smears and multiples are the types of things that might appear in an animation after being looked at from a “scientific” viewpoint. They aren’t purely the product of imagination or creativity. They are trapped-line approximations of what the eye would see as blurs in live action. Without them, we see strobing, as if the camera were using and ultra-fast shutter speed; which is an unnatural-looking distraction. The idea that science and creativity are inherently at odds is false; they typically work hand-in-hand.

  • One of the best sources of smears and multiples I’ve ever seen: “The Cat Came Back” by Cordell Barker. Some of the wildest looking freeze-frames you’ll ever see are in that short. But they look completely natural and invisible in motion.

  • great site. thanks for the heads up there.

  • Daniel

    Michael Ruocco should stop frame and grab some of the many odd ‘blue streak’ smears done in Filmation’s “Quacula!” series around 1979, the first major Dover Boys inspired influence in an animated TV series. For what was then described by the studio as economic reasons, all smears were painted a solid light blue, (as in ‘quick as a blue streak’, presumably) to save a buck. Because they believed painting a smear all of the normal colors it should be would cost too much. “Quacula!” stood apart from every other cartoon smear technique in film history, just because its smears were solid blue, calling attention to them, the polar opposite of the intended subliminal effect.

    • GW

      That’s a cheap idea, but it could be put to good use. If you made every animation trick like multiples or smears a certain color, you could get people to notice these sorts of visual tricks more closely.

      • The Gee

        Part of even using the multiples and smears is to make an illusion. It isn’t about people noticing them.

        Somethings, sometimes, sure. There are times when maybe a multiple will be a hold frame as a wild take. But, it is the language thing. Cheats like these are like silent Es or silent Ks in the english language.

      • GW

        Perhaps I didn’t clarify my point enough. The idea is that you’d do this as a conscious decision in a particular insignificant work to reveal the presence of tricks between frames in order to get the people in the audience to look deeper and see where they’re found elsewhere. Basically what Penn and Teller do with magic. I’m aware that if you did this sort of revelation casually, unless it’s a special case like the Merry Melodies race winner with a permanently blurred car, it would ruin the point. It’s more of a Penn and Teller sort of idea, spoil the illusion for people who want it spoiled.

  • Karl

    There’s so many dropped frames in the You Tube transfers it’s hard to tell what you’re seeing.

    • The Gee

      I doubt those who are obsessively studying in betweens are relying mostly upon compressed video online.

      But, yeah. dropped frames mess up what you want others to see. that’s for sure.

  • The Brewmasters

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