Animated Bert

Three seconds of excercise

I could make several jokes about just how animated Bert is (not very). Or when he is (prospects of food and walks). Or where (next to eating humans). But that's not the point.

I finally finished 3 seconds of animation of Bert. No BAFTAs or Oscars here I'm afraid. Purely a learning exercise.

Bert smells in the park

And the things learned?

Well, Adobe Premiere Pro for a start. Now I've got my head around it I have to say its stunningly powerful. I actually needed very little of it to animate Bert, but there's a fair bit to absorb about Premiere's view of the world before you can reliably get anywhere. In six words: everything's a clip of some description.

Actually drawing the animation? I had to hop between Adobe's Photoshop and Fresco quite a bit for this. Photoshop to set up layers and stills, Fresco to do the drawing.

Pitfalls learned:

Fresco doesn't appear to display layer names, so navigating a hundred layer stack becomes confusing, and tracking down a problem frame is tedious.

Photoshop's export layers to files function sequentially names the files in order from the top of the stack, which is the opposite of how it builds them up. I naturally started the animation at the beginning so, by default, the final frame was at the top of Photoshop's layer stack. Consequently, the file naming sequence reversed time and Bert ran backwards. This would have required a tedious re-naming exercise on each output without writing a script to automate the file renaming, or accepting the pain and probable errors inherent in trying to reorder the video frame / drawing frame pairs in Photoshop itself. I took the script route.

Interoperability. I initially headed up a bit of a dead end using Photoshop's timeline module to animate the sequence, since Premiere required some tutorial reading. First, the results were not good; I suspect this feature is designed for slide production than animation. Secondly, and more annoyingly, once there is a timeline in a Photoshop file, Fresco won't import it; you have to copy layers in and out of a temporary non-timeline Photoshop file. Which was not very helpful in this case.

But, aside from pitfalls, the ultimate take-home? Fifty frames of hand drawn animation takes a very long time. I guess it could be seen as therapeutic, but...

Next stop. I'll be looking for a frame interpolation app, so I can concentrate on "telling a story" and not on mentally tracking each blade of grass as Bert occludes it.

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