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.
Watch episodes of Pohádky ze šípkového keře.
Over the years we have often wondered how closely we could emulate this look in Flash with SMR.
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.
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.
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.
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.∎
The videos below explore the processes of texture and rig setup in detail.