Chris Walker from March Digital implemented Cartoon Animator (CTA) as his preferred choice of 2D animation software for the creation of animated ads for a local law firm which would feature in cinema advertising. Having produced animation for such names as The Wiggles and Fairfax, Chris has considerable experience in the field of animation and in this interview with Reallusion he shares some of his insights and why Cartoon Animator is his personal choice for 2D animation software.
Q: Hello Chris and welcome. Can you begin by sharing a bit about your working background?
I’ve been working as a multimedia producer since the late 90’s having started out animating in Macromedia Flash producing large animated websites for clients like Intel, Fairfax and Foxtel.
My first major foray into cartoon animation was when I worked with The Wiggles about 18 years ago producing over 70 animated cartoons for their television and DVD series. We created them in Flash initially before moving on to Moho. I remember the most challenging aspects of those cartoons was always character rigging and managing what felt like millions of keyframes. It took a long time to do and generally involved creating alternate versions of each 2d character animation – so, very time consuming. We had to devise creative ways of developing reusable animations that could be shared among a small team of animators in software which was not designed for that purpose.
Q: How did you discover Cartoon Animator and what made you decide to use it as your animation software?
I’m one of those people who has owned Cartoon Animator for a few years but not really used it on any projects until recently. I purchased it a few years ago because I was intrigued about it’s approach to character rigging and use of motion clips. I mostly just messed about with it until about a year ago when I was asked to produce a TV commercial for the Tamworth City Council promoting a survey they were conducting … riveting stuff, I know … and I decided to use Cartoon Animator 4 for the project. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to produce and deliver the animation and how flexible the process was when it came to making changes following client review and feedback. It seemed too easy, to be honest. And it was fun.
“I decided to use Cartoon Animator for the project. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to produce and deliver the animation and how flexible the process was when it came to making changes following client review and feedback. It seemed too easy, to be honest. And it was fun.”Chris Walker – March Digital
Q: Can you tell us about the work you’re doing with Cartoon Animator?
I was recently commissioned by a local family law firm to produce a 15 second cinema advertisement to promote their divorce services. The animation starts with a parent sitting in their dining room holding divorce papers while their children can be seen playing in the backyard with the family dog. The parent has an initial look of sorrow on their face as they look up from the divorce papers to gaze out of the window while their facial expression changes slightly to convey how they feel when they look at the children.
The next scene shows the parent and children coming together in the backyard. The children run up to the parent who kneels down to embrace them both while looking at them with the loving eyes of a parent. The central focus for the entire animation is the parents face and the emotions it has to convey. Cartoon Animator 4 seemed like the great choice for this project as I was keen to use the face puppet tool for the facial animation. And I wanted to see how fast I could do most of the animation using just motion clips avoiding key-framing if possible.
Due to the nature of the topic (divorce within a family) we decided to make two versions – one featuring the father and the other featuring the mother – with each version running in different theatres and hopefully resonating with both men and women depending on which version they happened to see before their movie.
To achieve this quickly, I decided to create the animations with the mother character first before duplicating the project, swapping the mother for the father and motion retargeting the animation. This saved me a heap of time and made me feel really clever!
Q: What are some of your favourite tools and features to use in Cartoon Animator?
One of the things I really like about using Cartoon Animator is the Reallusion Marketplace and the fact that the assets you can purchase and download from the marketplace are designed to work without needing to roundtrip everything through Illustrator or Photoshop. I was able to quickly find all of the assets I needed for the project and have them imported and setup ready to animate within minutes.
Asset-wise I needed an Aussie backyard and a typical suburban looking dining room with a window. I found the assets that had been created by Garry Pye (a fellow Aussie) were spot on for my needs. He has both a DIY backyard scene and a living room scene which stylistically work perfectly together.
For the 2D character animation I needed two parents, two children and a dog. My main focus when choosing the characters was how facially expressive I could animate them. I found the School Mates series of characters by Serg Pilypencos on the Marketplace to be perfect for the project. My intention was to make the face of the parent quite prominent in the opening scene, with a look of exhaustion, sorrow and sadness on their face, so it was vital that the face be as expressive as possible while still being a very simple flat shaded style so that it fit with the other elements. The male and female characters in his series have very large eyes and prominent eyebrows which made it easy to animate their facial expressions pulling the audiences attention into the eyes during the opening scene.
The most fun I had with this animation was creating the scene of the boy and girl playing in the backyard with their dog. It’s pretty simple stuff – the boy picks up a ball and throws it. The dog chases the ball while the girl jumps up and tries to catch the ball as it flies over her head. They all run across the yard into the arms of the parent. I was able to do 90% of the animation by dropping motion clips on the characters and the little key-framing I did need to do was pretty basic but got the job done perfectly.
Q: Why did you choose Cartoon Animator as the platform to create your content?
I really like how Cartoon Animator simplifies and streamlines the process of developing a project. Being able to source quality assets from the Marketplace meant that I was able to work fast and respond to the clients feedback quickly. I think another big advantage that CTA provides over other software is that you’re able to rapidly prototype animations and iterate quickly. Sending an animation over to a client for review knowing that any changes they ask for will likely be easy to implement because the tools provide a high degree of flexibility, results in a smooth experience for everyone involved.
“I really like how Cartoon Animator simplifies and streamlines the process of developing a project. Being able to source quality assets from the Marketplace meant that I was able to work fast and respond to the clients feedback quickly. I think another big advantage that CTA provides over other software is that you’re able to rapidly prototype animations and iterate quickly.”Chris Walker – March Digital
Now I can’t wait to get my hands on Cartoon Animator 5!
Q: So what’s next for you? Do you have plans for future content in the works?
Yes, I have a few clients that have a regular need for animation so I’ll be focusing my efforts on using Cartoon Animator from now on. I’m currently working on an animation using Character Creator and iClone and I’m keen to experiment with creating a cartoon version in Cartoon Animator reusing some of the motion clips from iClone. For me, having a suite of animation tools that covers both 2D and 3D and which in many ways have a similar workflow approach means I am able to move quickly between applications without having to stop and recalibrate my brain each time, which is really appreciated. And being able to reuse motion assets from iClone in Cartoon Animator is pretty cool.
I am particularly excited about the upcoming release of Cartoon Animator 5 and the new vector animation tools it now features. A lot of the work I do is targeted for the web, generally explainer-type animations for corporate clients. I can see that Cartoon Animator 5‘s vector animation tools will work great for creating those ‘single shot – panning and zooming’ style of explainer animations which clients are always keen to invest in.
Thank you for having me.