Tips for Animation Teachers

Cintiq lightbox

Usually, teachers dole out tips to the students, but filmmaker Pat Smith, who’s been teaching at NYU in Singapore the past couple years, wrote a post on his blog to share teaching tips with other animation professors. His ideas are all smart and outside the box, but my favorite is this awesomely subversive suggestion:

Use the Cintiq as a traditional light box for drawn animation.
Oh the IRONY! You’re lucky to find any animation tables or light boxes at the technology happy modern university of today. Who needs a light table when you have Cintiqs! Just tape a plastic peg bar to the bottom, set your desktop to blank white (nice and bright!) and you’re in business! This also saves the school space and money;)


  • http://kelseighn.blogspot.com Kelseigh

    We don’t need to worry about that at my school. I go to Algonquin in Ottawa, and every desk in the three 2-D animation labs comes fully equipped with a disk and back light.

  • Rob

    Clever, but any risk of damaging the screen? I always figured there’s a reason why cintiq stylus numbs are so blunt.

    • http://www.wardjenkins.com Ward

      Those Cintiq screens are pretty durable. I draw pretty hard and so far, no damage to screen or any other problems.

      • Justin

        The newer, larger screen Cintiqs (the ones they have for sale now) will scratch after continuous use.

      • http://thelift.kohrtoons.com Robert Kohr

        True, I have both a new one at work and an old one at home. The old ones have less pressure sensitivity but are more durable.

    • donomator

      Not if you place a translucent drawing board over the monitor, like what is sold at Lightfoot Ltd.

      • Chris Webb

        I taped a piece of clear plastic over my Cintiq. Now drawing with it feels more like drawing on paper. Costs less than 5 bucks.

      • Johnno

        I’m getting a Cintiq soon and I want to know more about how to care care of it. Your idea sounds good. How thick should the plastic be or maybe you can just shoot me the brand you used?

      • Chris Wbb

        Don’t know the brand or the thickness. If you are in LA, I got it from Carter Sexton on Laurel Canyon.

  • http://www.spitandspite.com Abel Salazar

    Meh!!!

    This just seems completely silly, a waste of time, talent and effort! It’s the sort of idea that might come from an executive or “producer” more so than a animator.

    You’ll never get the same functionallity of a proper paper flip between your fingers.

    I’m a cg animator and the most beneficial aspect of the paper flip was that your mind was working out motions based not on the processing power of a computer chip (aka how your hotkeys are setup to switch between keyframes and such) but on the specific questions you, as an animator are working out in your mind as an INDIVIDUAL artist. WITH YOUR OWN VOICE.

    You can try and fool your mind into thinking that this cintiq (which I own btw) is a piece of paper but you still lose that moment, that insight when you flip the paper back and forth continuously for 30 seconds for no apparent reason at all until it happens, you get it, that moment when it “clicks!”… it’s the process that produces the result sometimes.

    Different process will produce different results.

    Hence the complaint of how flash animation, though fluid at times, won’t ever compare to direct hand drawings.

    The same that doing cg animation with the “LOOK” of stop-mo won’t ever replicate the FEEL of true hand manipulated stop motion animation.

    Instead of replicating and short changing the artwork in a ever expanding global market place (Hello Pixar CANADA) why not embrace the shortcomings, challanges and ultimately (i believe) BENIFITS that the process (cintiq on a Flash loaded pc for example) that technology brings you.

    AKA… quit faking the funk.

    • Rob

      Also should be noted that in the same article, Pat Smith ALSO recommends using the cintiq for quick and easy realtime animation demos, but I guess that got lost among the ‘OH GOD WHERES THE PAPER FLIPPING’ knee-jerking.

      Just saying..

    • timmyelliot

      Did you know the article was about using a cintiq in place of a light table? or were you responding to some poster suggesting using the cintiq instead of paper?

    • http://thelift.kohrtoons.com Robert Kohr

      If people stop using Flash to animate for them then there animation will stop looking like flash. If you stop using flash your line work will also stop looking like flash. Flash is a POS.

    • Stone

      I scrub in flash manually using the “,” and “.” keys and yes, I’ll sit there for 30 seconds flipping back and forth working it out in my head. I don’t miss paper that much.

      As for line quality, Flash, for some reason STILL cannot reach that one to one line quality that is necessary for smooth animation…

      But Toon boom does a great job of it. There are digital alternatives to paper that work and are great to us if you’re patient enough to get comfortable with them.

  • Justin

    Don’t do it! You’ll scratch the screens! Especially the new models (they tend to get scratch marks after continuous use with the stylus).

    Why not just get a wacom pen and use the Cintiq itself? Open up Photoshop or Toon Boom and save yourself the hassle of paper and pencil.

  • http://www.fooksie.com Fooksie

    I wouldn’t do it with my Cintiq.
    It would be silly to risk having some ham-fisted student damage a $2100 piece of equipment due to some over zealous erasing.

  • Jmatte

    I also would advise against turning the Cintiq’s screen into a lightbox. Even if the risk is minimal, I wouldn’t take the chance damaging a 2000$ piece of equipment like that.

    Plus, doing boards with Cintiq-Photoshop these days, I end up adding more and more character poses. I swear it is getting close to doing key animation. Something I wouldn’t do on paper storyboards.
    I guess that could be considered ironic.

  • http://animationinventory.blogspot.com/ Teodor

    Paper has become a ballast of 2D production.

    I do not draw on paper more than 10 years and I do not feel deprived
    it is much more intuitive,quick to come up with results and i recommend it for teaching students…If someone cares about animation.

  • david

    people don’t traditionally animate anymore in the u.s. anyway. those jobs are overseas. Oh well. Who cares. just do some wonky boards and cool looking high school notebook character designs and special poses and let those slaves animate your wonk. then complain when it come backs crappy and order retakes. Or wait a second. If we do it cg it will be on model 100% of the time! That’ll teach those 2nd world countries for trying to mess our precious corporate product! I LOVE THE USA

  • droosan

    I made my own lightbox over 18 years ago — with materials from a hardware store that totaled maybe US$30. I still use it, on occasion.

    • The Gee

      Yeah. It seems like putting a peg bar on the Cintiq would be good if you want to trace directly into into it.

      but, it is just as cheap to make your own or to buy a small light table.

      (Plus, not that this is a concern if your employer is paying the bills, using a desktop that is absolute white or absolute black uses more energy. Obviously that isn’t a huge deal. So, if you are looking to conserve energy, it is better to go with light grays rather than bright white. 2 cents to save you 2 cents… haha.)

  • Trevor

    Shouldn’t be using the light to animate anyway

    • joe micallef

      …because it’s best to animate in complete darkness.

      • Trevor

        you should be animating by flipping. it will let you feel the motion better than looking at several drawings on top of each other

        use the light for really minute cleanup and tracebacks

      • http://thelift.kohrtoons.com Robert Kohr

        Hitting play is also a good way to replicate motion, it lets you see then final product.

    • La Pulga

      Yes, Trevor, Yes. Always animate with the light off meself…

  • joe micallef

    I use a vintage Zenith television as a light box – so I can watch old Twilight Zone episodes while I animate.

  • http://zooave.blogspot.com jeremy p.

    The company I work for, Titmouse Inc., is a traditional animation studio. We use Flash and Cintique monitors for all of our projects and are very successful in making the final look of the product appear hand drawn. For example, I bet you couldn’t tell that all of those Guitar Hero games (3-5) were completely done in Flash. With a skilled hand and the will to make real animation without digital cheats you can achieve a traditional aesthetic. I’ve been doing this process for over three years and don’t want to animate on paper. Also Super Jail is done in Flash and that show looks totally hand drawn. Don’t diss it til’ you try it and try it right.

  • Darío

    Clever, useful… Any step in favor of traditional and real animation techniques is a step we should applaud. Today we have Anime Pro, Flash, stuff like that where you mostly move things, but don’t get the feeling of true animation.

    Traditional animation can’t be matched. I wish people from Argentinean animation schools like Da Vinci would understand one day and drop these anime pro and the two years of stop motion they use in order to teach you 3D animation. Sorry, it’s a personal complain to these burglars. I wish the world could save us one day.