Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Upstate Four: Flash Animation

GREAT discussion going on over at Cartoon Brew. HIGHLY recommended--> here. Nearly all of it is music to my ears. Even though the show didn't get picked up by Cartoon Network, it proves that there is a way to push through the shortcuts and tweens of Flash to approach something that has the vibrancy of hand-drawn animation. They also talk about the importance of voice talent and sound design. My highlights:

Describe the animation process a bit. Like Superjail, a Flash-animated series that both of you worked on, Upstate Four is refreshingly free of the Flash shortcuts that we’re so used to seeing nowadays. It feels more like a traditionally animated cartoon than Flash. Would it be budgetarily possible to maintain this level of quality throughout the entire run of the series?

Fran: It would definitely be possible - it’s what was done on Superjail, though the workflow was different. We started with an animatic of the boards, from which the key animators based their layouts and Will started the backgrounds. I tried to key out as much as possible to keep the style consistent. From there, it went to the animators to rough out the movement. The assistant animators handled the clean-up and lipsync, and the interns covered the in-betweens and coloring. Shadows were also blocked in with Flash. The scenes were composited in AfterEffects, at which point the camera moves and shadows were added. Oh! Also, this cartoon wa produced entirely in the USA! No outsourcing whatsoever! In fact, except for the music, which was composed and recorded in LA, the entire production, animation, voices and sound were completed in New York.

Will: We wanted to make a modern cartoon within our budget that didn’t look cheap. We had both worked with Flash on other projects and we’d learned a few tricks to make Flash produce animation that didn’t look like a web banner ad for home mortgages, like turning down paintbrush smoothing and avoiding motion tweens. “Utica Cartoon” was traditionally animated, and we figured that since we didn’t have to spend money on paint, film, cels, photocopying, re-registering, etc… that we could spend more time making full animation. Being animators ourselves, we wanted to get the project done without outsourcing since we figured that each job that wasn’t outsourced would lead to hiring another one of our skilled friends. New York is chock-full of animators that I would be psyched to work with.

Fran: I also have to add that the image alone can’t keep a production from looking cheap. The voices and music blew me away. The voice actors were all wonderful to work with and added a ton to the project. They’re creative and hilarious. They were a big factor in keeping this project from looking “Flashy.” The musicians, Miles Kurosky and Nik Freitas created about twenty-eight different songs to fill eleven minutes. I think there’s only about fifteen seconds that don’t have music. Not many cartoons these days have all real live instruments and real live musicians.


Also to note that you can watch the the pilot, too. So head on over and read the full interview.

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