Analog look with digital cutouts

The warmth of tra­di­tion­al Czech cutout films from the 70s has always fas­ci­nat­ed us.

They bring cosi­ness and sin­cer­i­ty, which are almost com­plete­ly for­got­ten in the dig­i­tal age of pol­ished and intense visu­al stimulation.

We love the look of Pohád­ky ze šíp­kového keře, Tales From Under The Rose­hip!
Its appeal does not come only from nos­tal­gia and the slow­er, more gen­tle edit­ing, but also the imper­fec­tions, the won­der­ful tex­tures, beau­ti­ful music, and, of course, the love­ly stories.

Over the years we have often won­dered how close­ly we could emu­late this look in Flash with SMR.



Two approaches



There are basi­cal­ly two approach­es which can be tak­en to sim­u­late the ana­log look. There are pros and cons with each one, but both are valid and can pro­duce appeal­ing results, bring­ing some of that lost warmth and sin­cer­i­ty back to cartoons.

Real paper cutouts

If all body parts are drawn on paper, cut with scis­sors, scanned and import­ed into Flash, this will give a look that is as close to the real medi­um as possible.

The bits need to be con­vert­ed to sym­bols and masked inter­nal­ly (regard­less of whether they have alpha or not) for cor­rect click detec­tion by Kine­Flex. All this is very easy to orga­nize. The per­for­mance of such a rig is excellent.
Adding del­i­cate drop-shad­ows can also increase the illu­sion of real card­board pieces ani­mat­ed under the camera.

The only draw­back here is the very lim­it­ed flex­i­bil­i­ty to edit.
A seri­ous pre­pro­duc­tion effort needs to be made for all the nec­es­sary body parts to be cre­at­ed, cut and scanned, before set­ting up the rig, or a very good sys­tem must be orga­nized to always be able to match the look, when­ev­er a new vari­ant of a body part needs to be prepared.

This approach can also be used for art­work cre­at­ed in any raster-based drawing/painting software.

Vector shapes with bitmap fills

Anoth­er option for get­ting ana­log tex­tured look in Flash is to use bitmap fills. These can be applied both to vec­tor shapes and strokes. They have a matrix and can be scaled, rotat­ed and moved around. They can also be swapped very easily.

Using bitmap fills pre­serves all editabil­i­ty and flex­i­bil­i­ty of the Flash char­ac­ter build, while giv­ing it a rea­son­ably believ­able ana­log look.
Tex­tures can be scanned or cre­at­ed dig­i­tal­ly in any raster-based paint­ing software.

Render quality

Flash has a fair­ly rudi­men­ta­ry bitmap sup­port. Scal­ing down beyond 20% and up beyond 250–300% will prob­a­bly not gen­er­ate accept­able qual­i­ty renders.
If a greater vari­a­tion in char­ac­ter sizes is required, mul­ti­ple rigs may be cre­at­ed for each char­ac­ter for close ups, using high­er res­o­lu­tion tex­tures or body part scans.

Animation

Tweens can be very use­ful when uti­lized tastefully.
If tim­ing and pos­ing are good, tweens will not harm the ani­ma­tion. It can be done at 12 or even 8 frames per sec­ond. Pans will not be very smooth at 12 or 8 fps, but this may be con­sid­ered charming.
Anoth­er option is tweens for the char­ac­ters to be con­vert­ed to 2s or 3s after ani­ma­tion is done, and then pans and zooms will look good.


The video above was ani­mat­ed at 12 frames per sec­ond, i.e. on twos. This includes all zooms and pans.

There is also the pos­si­bil­i­ty to not use tweens at all, and do the in-betweens man­u­al­ly, or even ani­mate straight-ahead, the way it used to be done under the camera.
In our opin­ion this is prob­a­bly going a bit too far, but, again, if done well it can be justified.



Video demonstrations



The videos below explore the process­es of tex­ture and rig set­up in detail.

 
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