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Animating backgrounds

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Animating backgrounds

Good fine morning to one and all.

I've been awake since 4am, staring at the back of my eyelids, thinking about a scene I'm working on where I'd like to have Santa fly over some landscape. Some of it will be urban flatness where I think I'll just draw a big BG and pan up it onto another sheet or something... not sure. I'd also like to have him fly over /past a snowy mountain top, and it seems to me that zooming up to and beyond the drawing will just show off all the rough spots and enlarge the lines. I guess I'm kind of thinking out loud here (except I'm being kind of quiet since my wife is still sleeping), but I'm looking for solutions on this. Eventually

I'd like to use 3D backgrounds rendered to look cartoony, but right now I'm on Toon Boom. However, software isn't really my problem at the moment, I think I'm looking for a new way of looking at or thinking about this challenge.

Anyone got anything?

rupertpiston's picture
Cartoon Thunder There's a little biker in all of us...

Cartoon Thunder
There's a little biker in all of us...

Try Focal Points


The idea of doing a background and slapping a character in it is a bad way to work (2D or 3D).

Think of your characters as FOCAL POINTS and build everything around them.

There are three elements to constructing FOCAL POINTS.

1) Prespective - let the perspective lead you to the animation

2) Framing Devices - frame the animation so the eye doesn't wander away from it.

3) Lighting - Find ways to spotlight our animation- sometime it's subtle and sometimes it is not overt.

You can use one or more of these techniques to create effect BG's

Well, here's what I came up with:

Sine Toon Boom uses 2D objects in 3D space (like paper dolls on a table top), I worked out a couple of solutions. The first was to park the camera behind my sleigh team and bring the mountains to me, each on its own peg. Woulda worked, but kind of a pain in general to get the look I want.

Instead, I put the camera, the sky, the sleigh and team, and a distant mountain horizon on a peg-- each element in a separate place on the Z-axix to provide depth and perspective. Then I parked a few mountains in 3D space and rode the peg with the team et al toward the back of the space. Kind of like a diorama or a bunch of cutouts or something.

That worked well, but it looked wrong because my shot on the sleigh team is from behind and to the right, but the peg takes us forward. So I simply moved the endpoint of the master peg about 6-8 fields to the right (over 300 frames) since that's where they look like they're going. Looks pretty cool. I'd share it, but I'm gonna make you wait until I finish it, hopefully before Christmas.

Cartoon Thunder
There's a little biker in all of us...

Rupert take a look at this Flash piece, you might find a solution. There's a lot of flying going on in it.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

Thanks to both of you. I'm waiting for the page to downlod now, Phacker.

I'm not sure where I started that process, Larry. My defensive side wants so say, "Yeah, of course, man, that's where I started." But I really am not sure. I really appreciate your pointers.

None of it came together until I first animated the reindeer and the sleigh, however. Once I could see their direction I could see what to build around them. Just wasn't sure how to go about it. I'm using the mountains to frame the picture and contain the image. Lighting I'm not sure about.

Okay, here's what I've got so far: Reindeer Run Maybe the truth isn't going to feel good, but I don't get better staying comfortable.

Cartoon Thunder
There's a little biker in all of us...

Wow, phacker, I love that song...Just found some info on it on Google. Thanks for the inadvertent gift.

Dr. Piston, the 3D effect is better than I thought it would be. If I can make ONE tiny suggestion, have a shade of difference in the color between the mountain levels. Like each level gets a litte more dark blue-gray as they go farther into the background....give it a sense of atmosphere. I know you said you're not finished so maybe you're planning this anyway, but it works so well for being 2D acting as 3D, I think "faking" atmosphere in that way could really sell it.

Hadn't even thought of it, Scatorama. That's terrific. Think I should loose the darkening as we grow closer to the mountain?

Thank you!

Cartoon Thunder
There's a little biker in all of us...

WooHOO! Very nice, rupert! Looks great.
I agree with Scattered about creating some depth with shading of the mountains.
As far as altering the tone as the sleigh approacheth? Hmmm, my first instinct would be to say yeah, fer sure. But I also wonder how necessary that would be. (shrugs)
As the sleigh flys past the first few mountains (the subtle layer shifting is very effective there, btw) it looks like there's a frozen lake or flat area before the next range of mountains. Can you alter that to help give some definition between the nearer mountains and the farther ones? It appears that the mountains are all on a line at their base. If the mountain that comes up on the right could begin to drop slightly as the fat man approaches it would break that line and help build on the illusion of depth.

erhm, am I saying that right? :-P


You could do that and it could be hyper real, but the subtlety (ie things almost look like one piece until the last second) is why this works. If you go ahead and change the colors on the fly, what happens if you don't change them in the amazingly perfect proportions to establish these distances that don't even exist? You'd be fighting with the human brain, and it notices the slightest imperfection. I think for your cartoon it'd be appropriate to have the simple -static- color/depth variations be the height of that particular special effect.

I didn't see anything Rupert but the stand still frame. But I'd just like to say remember your arcs, that will help make the movement fluid.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.