Think children’s animation is easy? Think again. Production on Baby Cow Animation’s Wussywat the Clumsy Cat was spread across four cities and two continents – it was Frankie that bridged the Atlantic divide and ensured Wussywat’s message was delivered loud and clear.
What is Frankie? Frankie is a web-based, real-time video review and approval tool, enabling users to interactively review and discuss videos between multiple locations, thanks to its suite of cloud-based tools.
You can play, pause, make notes and even sketch ideas right onto the video – all in sync with everyone in the review. Frankie will then automatically generate PDFs that clearly display everything that has been commented on and discussed. Users who weren’t in the synced session can even jump in afterwards, adding their thoughts to the discussion.
Frankie makes things simpler and more effective when working with people in other countries or cities – or even just the other side of town. Work can be reviewed and discussed quickly, using drawing tools to illustrate exactly what you mean, eliminating ambiguity.
Being a web-based application, Frankie requires no software installation. It’s built around the HTML5 web standard and will work across different browsers and operating systems.
Wussywat the Clumsy Cat is winsome children’s television at its finest. The show’s titular hero is an inquisitive yet somewhat graceless feline. As the famous proverb insists, this particular cat’s curious nature often leads him to trouble, causing many a mishap as he explores the seemingly infinite world of The Garden.
Wussywat’s cloddish nature might cause a plethora of problems, but in the end he always emerges from the experience with a wider understanding of the world – and that’s the point. Wussywat the Clumsy Cat’s message to its young audience is that you shouldn’t be afraid to try out new things even if it means risking failure in the process. Here, failure isn’t negative – it’s all part of the learning process. Wussywat tells us that children can’t always be protected from failure, and it’s ‘have-a-go’ mindset – not the final outcome – that’s the real personal achievement.
It’s a meaningful message, broadcast simply through the medium of 2D animation – animation created via a partnership between Baby Cow Animation in London and Smiley Guy Studios in Toronto.
That geographical distance meant that this production wasn’t working within the same physical space – it was a truly global production, with a team of fifty writers, storyboarders, animators, voice artists, producers and directors working in tandem, with an entire ocean and a five-hour time difference cutting through the workflow.
In order to ensure that both teams remained in sync – and that the core message of Wussywat remained intact through each of its 5-minute episodes – the cloud- and web-based review solution Frankie was brought into play.
The challenge of 2D animation
Simon Quinn, producer at Baby Cow, has been working in stop motion animation for over 25 years, having previously worked on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. Wussywat was his first experience in children’s 2D animation, which meant an entirely different pipeline to grow accustomed to.
Wussywat also happened to be Baby Cow’s first ever pre-school animation, with the studio – formed in 1999 by comedy creators Steve Coogan and Henry Normal – having previously created animation for an older audience on projects such as Horrible Histories and Have I Got News For You.
“It was a challenge, as the project was new for us, and it was being created across the globe,” he tells us. “Baby Cow acted as the central hub for production, but there were elements of the show being created in places dotted all over the globe. Scripts were written all over the UK; designs were done in Wimbledon; Tom Edgar (the director) and the storyboard team were based in Cardiff; voice recordings took place at Fitzrovia Sound Post in the heart of London; and animation and music/dub were done in Toronto, Canada.”
For Simon, as producer, this presented more than a little challenge. “It’s my job to schedule the various elements, shepherd the various teams and heads of depts through the schedule, make them aware of the deadlines and milestones and try to coordinate between all the working parties – all while keeping the whole show on track, on budget and working with the investors and CBeebies our broadcaster to make sure we are keeping everyone happy.”
This was would be a difficult task in and of itself, even before you considered the round-the-world production pipeline. “ For each episode, design would start with pencil and paper in the traditional way,” explains Simon. “Those drawings are then scanned into Photoshop and sent to Canada where the assets are converted to Flash for the animators. We also use After Effects and edit in Pro Tools before outputting the data to Base Light, where The Farm in London finalise the picture before delivering to the BBC on tape.”
With 50 different people involved in the project at any one time and 52 five-minute episodes being worked on simultaneously at various stages of completion, the production was something of a juggling act to say the least.
“Distance has always been the key worry, with the sheer geographical spread of the crew across the UK and Canada, and the different time zones meaning very long hours,” says Simon. “It’s much easier to communicate when everyone is in the same building, so it was a demanding task in front of us.
“Thankfully, using Frankie combined with Skype enabled us to keep in touch, while also keeping tabs on what was decided by who and when – all without having to leave the comfort of a web browser.”
Discovering the power of Frankie
Tom Edgar of Barneyloon films was brought on to the Wussywat project as director. Being based in Cardiff, Wales, it was important that he stayed in the loop with the global team, ensuring his vision for the project was carried out as intended. It was the first time Tom had used Frankie – and it is unlikely to be his last.
“I cannot fathom how we could possibly have lead this production without Frankie!” he exclaims. “It’s now so fundamentally integrated into the way we work, I reach for it before an email as a response tool.
“With the production team on Wussywat so spread out across the globe, it was imperative, despite any time zone differences, that we could have highly specific questions answered during a single sitting. Being able to conduct virtual video reviews, during which frame-accurate decisions could be made with the whole team ‘in the room’, was unthinkably useful. It’s become completely indispensable to me.”
In previous scenarios, before he discovered Frankie, Tom believes that he would not have been able to work in the same streamlined, remote fashion as he is able to now: “I would either have had to travel extensively to wherever the project was, or indeed relocate to the location with or without the family! This would inevitably cost a great deal of time, money and inconvenience! If any material had to be approved remotely that would entail an enormous email trail and cross referenced phone calls over images and video stored on Cloud share sites or worse, couriered across the country.
“Frankie means we don’t have to worry about any of that,” he says with relief. “You can have multiple users across the globe interacting with the same information at the same time. The fact that each individual can watch, step through, mark and annotate clips – and then collate all of the episode notes with Frankie’s amazing self-generating PDF function – removes a huge margin for error.”
From script to screen
When working on the Wussywat project, Simon, Tom and the rest of the team would carry out Frankie sessions three-four times a week. These meetings would comprise different members of staff depending on what needed to be discussed in that session.
“The sessions could include any number of people from across the world,” begins Tom. “Sometimes the sessions would include myself, Simon and a script writer to discuss animatics or story issues; sometimes they would be with the animation supervisor and project leader in Canada; sometimes with a storyboarder or editor to discuss animatic board fixes; and sometimes with animators to discuss PDF notes and briefings. My role as director required me to keep in constant contact with all the various members of the team, wherever they were, to manage their workflow and review their output closely.”
Production of an episode would usually begin with the scripts being turned in storyboards. Next came the animatic: taking the still images from the storyboard and setting them to dialogue on a timeline, giving the show creators a working length for the episode and a guide for the animators on both shot length and action.
“From here I would often send the animatic to the storyboarder via Frankie to see what changes were required and how the stills transformed with the timings,” explains Tom. “This is the part of production where I tended to use Frankie the most, as it’s so much simpler to discuss moving images and synchronised sound when everyone involved is watching the same thing. Decisions as complex as scene planning changes, re-boards or re-edits and continuity tracking can all be done in a single session – and all of these decisions can be noted on both the video presentation itself and the emailable PDF generated after the session.”
Once a working animatic was been established, Tom would need to brief the animators. “Normally I would conduct a sit down presentation with all the team in one room, but with Frankie it doesn’t matter where in the world you physically are,” says Tom. “As long as you have an internet connection you can sync the animatic to everyone’s screen. Then, while the animators are working, they can bring me any revisions, changes, queries or questions and it’s simply a matter of linking it onto a Frankie session – it’s as good as looking over somebody’s shoulder!
“That’s why Frankie was in use from the very first concept designs all the way to final approvals.”
Post-production without the hassle
A project on the global scale of Wussywat the Clumsy Cat, created without the aid of a real-time video review tool such as Frankie, simply wouldn’t be possible to the same degree of efficiency and speed. Telephone calls, FTPs, long download times and a constant back-and-forth in email communication might be one solution, but the production process will never match the speed and efficiency of one that incorporates the instant, browser-based communication enabled by Frankie.
“It’s just a really easy, intuitive tool, and I don’t know where I’d be without it,” says Tom. “Using it is as simple as uploading a video to Youtube or any other platform. Once you’ve got your project loaded, it’s child’s play to share, add drawings, text or direction live to the image, or even in advance of a future presentation. Once you’re done, the project remains online, available for as long as you want, and a PDF version of all the notes is saved for easy reference even when you’re without an internet connection.
“And of course, because it’s browser-based, I can do all of this from anywhere, as long as I have my laptop or tablet,” he continues. “That means I can be at home, in London collaborating with colleagues or on a train between locations, and I’ll be available. I can be preparing a brief, reading other people’s comments or making my own notes on the episodes as they are sent to me.”
From never using it at all, to it becoming an integral part of his workflow, Tom is a true Frankie convert, and strongly recommends that any post-production studios currently operating without the solution should rethink their strategy. Like Wussywat, production is all about the taking part: it’s about learning from your mistakes and ensuring you communicate potential issues before they can become a problem, and Frankie is an invaluable element in that process: “If a studio has a need to share visual ideas between remote locations, then Frankie is the best tool that I’ve come across, whether for video or still images,” concludes Tom. “With the international marketplace expanding globally and embracing remote workflows, I cannot believe that anyone working in a creative industry such as ours could manage without it!”
Interesting but you’d think they would have taken the time to draw a decent character to demo the thing and not scribbles. I kind view this as evil because it’s gonna make jackasses believe you don’t need animators any longer to make films. Which this tutorial CLEARLY demonstrates is not true.
The 2015 release of Adobe® Flash Professional® CC reintroduces the IK bone tool that enables you to create bone armatures using symbols or shapes that can be easily turned into life-like animation. The release also comes with H.264 video import, universal document type converter, integration with the latest Flash Player and AIR SDK, and many more enhancements. Continue reading for a quick introduction to new features available with the latest update to Flash Professional CC, and links to other resources that provide more information.
Adobe Flash Professional CC 2015 release provides you capabilities to create great cartoon characters with life-like movements using the new bone tool, convert your projects to any document type using the universal document type converter, import H.264 videos, work with the latest Flash Player and AIR SDK, and many more cool capabilities that help you to take your graphics and animation projects to the next level.
The Flash Professional CC 2015 Release offers you the capability to lend life-like movements to your animation characters using the all-new bone tool.
The bone tool gives you inverse kinematics (IK) capabilities within Flash. IK is a way of animating objects using bones chained into linear or branched armatures in parent-child relationships. When one bone moves, connected bones move in relation to it. Inverse kinematics lets you easily create natural motion. To animate using inverse kinematics, specify the start and end positions of bones on the Timeline. Flash automatically interpolates the positions of the bones in the armature between the starting and ending frames.
You can use IK in the following ways:
By using a shape as a container for multiple bones. For example, you can add bones to a drawing of a snake so that it slithers realistically. You can draw these shapes in Object Drawing mode.
By chaining symbol instances. For example, you can link movie clips showing a torso, arm, lower arm, and hand so that they move realistically in relation to each other. Each instance has only one bone.
Bone tool comes with on-stage controls to ensure greater precision in movements. The onstage controls allows you to switch between Locked, Open, and Constrained states for Rotation and Translation properties of individual bones in the IK armature. You can now directly adjust these constraints on stage with accuracy using clear visual feedback.
In addition to FLV videos, this release also introduces an option to embed H.264 videos in the timeline. When an H.264 video is embedded, the frames of the video are rendered on the stage when you scrub the timeline. This feature enables you to use videos as a guide to synchronize your animation on stage. Since the Flash Player and other run-times do not support rendering embedded H.264 videos, they are not published. Importing H.264 videos is a design-time-only feature.
Audio playback is enabled for H.264 videos. You can now select the ‘Include audio’ option while importing H.264 videos. Once imported to the stage (with ‘place instance on stage’ option selected), scrubbing the timeline must play the audio for the relevant frames. Playing the timeline (Enter) must play back the animation at the fps of the imported video so that the audio is in sync with the video frames on stage.
Export sprite sheet as bitmap allows you to pack all the bitmaps in canvas document in to a sprite sheet. A new Export the Bitmap as Sprite Sheet check box has been added and enabled by default. You can specify the maximum size of the sprite sheet by giving the height and width values in the publish settings. This enhancement reduces the number of server requests, which in turn results in improved performance.
With this release, Flash Professional scales the brush size proportionately to the changing zoom level of the stage. Proportionate zooming allows you to draw seamlessly adjusting to any zoom level and preview your work as you draw. If you want to revert to the earlier default behavior of brushes maintaining a constant pixel size even when you change the zoom level of the stage, you must disable the ‘Stage zoom level’ checkbox in the brush Property Inspector.
A. Increase/decrease brush size B. Brush size preview C. Option to scale brush size according to the zoom level of the stage
In earlier versions of Flash Pro, you had to import the audio file in to the library and then add it to a layer on the timeline. In this release, you can directly import audio in to your stage/timeline by dragging and dropping the file to a layer or by using the File > Import > Import to Stage option.
Split Audio option in context menu
The stream audio embedded on the timeline can be split at ease using the Split Audio context menu. Split Audio enables you to pause the audio when it is necessary and then resume the audio playback from the point it was stopped at a later frame on the timeline.
Remember audio sync options in PI
Flash Pro now remembers the sync options in property inspector. If a sound is selected from the “Sound” section of the Property Inspector, then on trying to set another sound on a new keyframe from the Property Inspector, Flash remembers the sync options “Stream” or “Event” of the previous sound.
The Paste functionality has been enhanced as follows:
Paste: Until the 2014.1 release, when you copy a curve in the Motion Editor and use the Paste option to paste it in a new range, it pastes within the current curve’s range and not with absolute values. In this release, the Paste option pastes the curve with absolute values.
Paste to fit current range: This option now replicates the old Paste operation and pastes the curve within the current curve’s range and not with absolute values.
A new option, Lock/Unlock, has been added to the fly-out menu of the panels to lock the dock. Once a dock is locked, all the panels in the dock can be resized, but cannot be moved. This feature helps you prevent accidental drag and resize of panels.
Code snippet support for WebGL
From this release, code snippets are available for some commonly used actions in the WebGL document type.
Note: This enhancement is available only in the English language version.
Enhancements in Custom Platform Support SDK
This release includes the following enhancements to Custom Platform Support SDK and the sample plug-in:
Ability to query the type of a library symbol: ILibraryItem::GetProperties() returns an additional key “SymbolType” for symbols. The value of key can be “Button,” “MovieClip,” or “Graphic.”
Ability to distinguish between button and movie-clip: Until the previous release, the button instances were treated as movie clips by both the DOM and the IFrameCommandGenerator service. Starting with Flash Pro CC 2015, an interface has been added to support button instances. If the IMovieClip instance also implements the IButton interface, then it can be treated as a button instance. The four states of a button namely, Up, Over, Down, and Hit are always mapped to the frames 0, 1, 2, and 3 respectively. See the file IButton.h to know more about the button instance.
New API to get the bounds of IClassicText objects: The AddClassicText function in ITimelineBuilder interface now returns an object of CLASSIC_TEXT_INFO_2 (instead of the old CLASSIC_TEXT_INFO), which contains a new field “bounds” representing the bounds of the IClassicText object.
This release comes to you with the Flash Player version 17.0 and AIR SDK 17.0 integrated.
Integration of latest CreateJS libraries
This release of Flash Professional comes with the latest CreateJS libraries integrated.
Since the latest libraries are not yet hosted via CDN, clear the Hosted LIbraries checkbox under the Advanced section of the Publish Settings dialog box (Edit > Publish Settings > Advanced) to see the output.
New in Flash Professional CC 2015
This release comes with the following Save optimizations:
Save algorithm optimization resulting in faster saving of FLA
File corruption issues while saving files over the network are now resolved
The following auto-recovery enhancements are part of this release:
Flash Professional does not create unnecessary auto-recovery files. An auto-recovery file is created only if the document is modified after the last auto-recovery files were created.
Progress bar is displayed only when the Flash Pro application is in focus.
Auto-recovery file is removed only after completing a successful save operation.
The following auto-recovery changes help you avoid continuous loop of auto-recovery for short auto-recovery duration:
At each auto-recovery interval, snapshot for all files modified after last auto-recovery are created.
Next auto recovery timer is started only after this process is completed.
This enhancement allows you to import Animated GIF files in a more organized way so that you can keep your library in proper order. In previous releases, the imported GIF assets were placed in the library root folder without proper naming. In this release, a folder with the GIF filename is created and all the associated bitmaps are organized under it. As shown in the following image, the bitmaps are now named appropriately based on their sequence.
This new option in the Edit menu and the Stage context menu inverts the selection of currently selected objects or shapes on the stage.
Paste and overwrite frames
New in Flash Professional CC 2015
The new ‘Paste and Overwrite Frames’ timeline context menu option enables you to paste the copied frames by replacing the exact number of frames without pushing the frames forward. This replaces the existing way of selecting the exact number of frames which you want to replace with the same number of copied frames. For example, if you want to copy ten frames from a timeline and replace the exact number of frames in another timeline, copy the ten frames and use the Paste and Overwrite Frames frames to paste it at the starting frame-the next ten frames are overwritten with the copied frames.
I’ve just become aware of a plugin for 3D Studio Max called 3DCutout which you use in conjunction with Photoshop (or any other drawing program I would think) which essentially lets you animate Flash or Harmony type cut out animation using a custom interface in 3D Studio Max. You can rig characters, create and library assets and of course use the 3d camera. It looks REALLY cool! Check out the clip above!