Thursday, December 17, 2009

Feed the Farmers

This is a remake of an old project I originally did in SoftImage about ten years ago. It features the voice of Sean Banton as "The Announcer." The other voices are mine. I feel really old to be doing remakes of my previous films, but I wanted to try out some of the new character animation tools in Flash CS4 without starting from scratch with storyboards, sound recording, etc. Unfortunately I couldn't locate the original sound project (done in CoolEdit before it became Adobe Audition) so I had to use the original's very compressed soundtrack.

Here's a frame from the original:

Thoughts on Flash

I've always thought of Flash as a web design program, misused by animators to create digital animation on the cheap. We can blame Kricfalusi for that. The recent version advertised the promise of inverse kinematics, a revamped motion editor, etc., so it sounded like Adobe was finally starting to recognize their vast user base of character animators. (After all, Metalocalypse is done in Flash.) Unfortunately I have to conclude that Flash is still quite primitive as an animation software. The process is convoluted and quite foreign to anyone approaching it from an animation background. (Any time you find your workflow consisting of a series of software limitation "workarounds," you are using the software beyond its intended purpose.)

Ironically, though Flash has the reputation of delivering limited "cut-out"-style animation (such as this one), it actually holds more promise as a tool for full frame-by-frame animation (it has onion skinning and ink and paint, what more do you need?)

Most Flash developers laugh off complaints about its shortcomings on their forums: "the limits of the medium are what make Flash animation so endearing." Call me old-school, but I think empowering artists to set their own limits will enable a wider range of "endearment." (One blogger compared it to watercolor, a traditional medium noted for its difficulty of use and limitations. I think that's a false comparison, because the limits of watercolor are set by physics, whereas the limits of a computer program are set by the priorities of its programmers. Just sayin'.)

Expanded by plugins/Actionscript, Flash can be a powerful web development tool. But as a cinematic animation program, Flash is a mere toy. (Granted, a toy responsible for Metalocalypse.) No wonder South Park is done in Maya.

I hear Toon Boom Animate! is awesome. I'll try that next.