I agree with mArc's observations regarding the lack
of artifacts in 3D animation that cause it to diverge with the quality
of the hand-drawn (2D) animation.
?Hand-drawn Animation for
episodic (television) production is generally animated on 2's(12
fps) for any particular movement. This cost-effective measure introduces
temporal artifacts such as strobing and emphasizes video field separation
due to the NTSC format and 3:2 field rate conversion(converting
These artifacts are generally
considered limitations, so the prevailing attitude among our episode
Directors is to use all 24 fps of 3D animation, despite the disparity.
IMHO, however - the 12 fps would be my personal preference UNLESS
the motion was considerably fast or complex. Even hand-drawn animation
is animated on 1's when clarity is needed or a camera pan is in
effect. Perhaps a more judicious use of 1's would be more appropriate.
?Spatially, a hand-drawn
character is often "cheated" to emphasize traits of the face or
body - to improve legibility of an expression, recognition of character(through
silhouette features), and/or design(composition). The character's
features are often drawn slightly out of proportion or off-perspective
as a result.
Bender is a good example.
His visor is clearly visible in hand-drawn rear 3/4 poses even though
his visor is all but occluded by his head in our 3D model. We would
have to severely lengthen or warp his visor during a 3D animation
in order for it to appear identical to the 2D model. Also, front
3/4 drawings emphasize the frontal features by "pulling" the front
of the character more towards the viewer. All of this pushing, pulling
and warping that is merely an intuitive impulse/response to the
2D animator would be a logistical nightmare to the 3D animator.
This problem would be interesting
to investigate, however. A more procedural way of key-framing these
distortions, based on camera movement, may be possible.
?Unintended variances in
hand-drawn perspective and position are often a trait of even good
Animation. The eye is able to "accept" some imprecision without
really correcting for it. The movement is believable, even if it
isn't incredibly smooth. In the worst case, an object that is drawn
very small, or in-betweened poorly may jitter unacceptably.
This is where we could experiment
more and still meet our schedule. Perhaps a minute, random offset,
rotation, camera angle adjustment could be introduced to each frame
to vary the appearance in a subtle way. This would not be too complicated.
Worth a test.
3D is used to extend our
2D toolset, so its use is by definition divergent from what we can
do with 2D. We therefore limit our 3D animation by making the movement
as simple as possible.
?Drawn high-lights and shadows
on a character or object may be based more on composition than on
accurate representation of a "3D" or real-world light source.
In general we "lock" down,
or limit the way that lights interact with objects. Usually, it
is as simple as grouping a light source with an object, where possible,
to reduce the broad movement of shadows or highlights. The light
source can move locally, but not globally.
The amount of coverage and
softness between shade regions is also considered.
?Line thickness and coherence(missing
lines or line portions) is an issue for hand-drawn Animation (during
the Assistant/Cleanup stage) as well as for the 3D Animation. We've
had to learn how to model in 3D to help insure that lines won't
jitter or pop on/off during Animation rendering. Our rendering solution(PowerAnimator->PowerToon)
was the best product at the time to maintain coherence in lines
and still offer a great amount of control. We're still looking for
a Maya solution for line rendering that will offer us this kind
Line quality is another
issue. The line renderer we use is good, but creates a uniformly
thick line. This is adequate for Futurama, but there are some finer
nuances of 2D cleanup that are difficult to emulate, such as rounded
corners and soft pencil lines.
?Effects (such as smoke,
explosions, nebulae) are toned down quite a bit so they don't look
too realistic. Many people think that cool looking effects are necessarily
realistic-looking; I contend that abstraction can look appropriate,
if not "cool", as well. Abstracting effects (reducing local detail/noise,
lighting and action) is much more difficult to do well than pursuing
a quasi-realistic result. Of course, obtaining convincing realism
is a holy grail of sorts, butWe have to determine how far we will
go and still integrate the style with the hand-drawn. Some shots
are more successful than others; Overall, IMHO, we've done pretty
To clarify for anyone curious, we use Softimage Toonz for 2D ink&paint/composite,
and Alias|Wavefront PowerAnimator and Maya for 3D...
Any how, sorry for any techno-speak.