March 4, 2019

Introduction to Hand-Drawn Animation Logo

This summer I will be teaching the Introduction to Hand-Drawn Animation workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont.  The class runs July 8-12 and is open to students 16 years and older.

I recently animated a new logo for the class, which seemed like a simple way to showcase some of the techniques and principles covered in the curriculum.  My hope is that potential students will watch this animated logo and go "That's what I want to be able to do!" and then come study with me in Vermont!  :)

Here is the finished logo, which loops every 24 seconds, and below you can see some steps of my process for putting this together:

The very first step was hand lettering all of the typography:

I then cleaned these up in the computer, and combined them with the CCS logo and the bouncing ball path, which I had on hand from a previous logo design.  I printed this out and then three-hole punched it on the top and bottom edges, to keep all of my animations registered to this design.

I decided to animate each section as its own "scene," starting with the little CCS person walking in and getting bonked on the head by the ball, which turns into the iconic speech balloon shape and makes them spill some ink.  I set up a 16-frame walk cycle that would loop three times to get the character across the screen.  Here's my thumbnail document to figure all of that out:

I animated this all on paper. Last year my old pal Nate Beaty gave me the idea of using stop motion animation software to create quick and easy pencil tests.  I downloaded Stop Motion Studio on my iPad and set it up on a tripod over a pegbar, like this:

I shot a couple of tests, made some corrections and then scanned in all my pencils for the little CCS person.  I then "inked" it in Photoshop, drawing on a wacom tablet, on a new layer directly over the pencils.  This worked well, because it allowed me to easily tweak small things, like the swaying brush end.  Here is an early pass (I later thickened up the ball path outlines):

Next up I did the "Animation" lettering, following the same process.  Here is a pencil test, before I inked it in Photoshop:
The last three "scenes" were all animated directly in the computer.  For the cursive "Introduction to" I simply saved a selection of the text and then filled in a bit more of the selection for each frame.  I decided to animate this on 1s (24 drawings per second) so that it would be really slow and smooth - it's how I write cursive, which takes a lot of concentration for me, and also kind of reflects the idea of an "introduction" to something - slow and steady.  It ended up being 287 frames, or a little under 12 seconds:

For "HAND-DRAWN" I wanted something really messy and organic to help emphasize that it was done by hand.  I followed a similar process of selecting the finished letterforms, and then I just did a series of straight ahead passes, improvising each frame with a series of squiggly lines that build and overlap and eventually fill in.  I wasn't 100% happy with how it turned out -- it would have been fun to also do this on 1s, where each squiggle actually moved along perfectly -- but by the end of 57 frames of this, I didn't have the energy left to take another crack at it!

I went through a lot of different ideas about how to loop the animation back to the beginning, but finally decided on a "circle wipe" using the center dividing line.  I did this all in Photoshop, just using Edit > Free Transform and then putting in a series of degree measurements that added up to 360 (making sure to ease in and out) for rotation.  I then painted white pixels very carefully into the scene while preserving transparency, to reveal or cover up parts of the scene as needed.  If you understand transparency in Photoshop, this will give you an idea of how that worked:

Once I had all these elements prepared as Photoshop documents with one frame on each layer, I brought them into Moho Pro and set everything up as its own individual switch layer. This allowed me to toggle on one layer at a time, which was essential because I was mixing animations that were both on 1s and 2s.  It also made it easy to position everything on the screen and on the timeline, to make sure things began and ended when I wanted them to.  Also with one click I could easily export .mov and .gif files. Here's what that looked like:

Anyway, I was pleased with the end result.  It didn't end up perfect (of course), but it was a lot of fun to put together, and I learned a couple of things along the way.  If this process looks fun to you, consider signing up for my Introduction to Hand-Drawn Animation class at CCS this summer!  It is going to be a ton of fun, and you can see some past student work on the workshop page.

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