Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Lighthouse

Zoe, our teacher in Animations, showed us today how to use the light box to draw animations in several layers. This helps to bring continuity in the movements of the objects on the page and smoothens the in-between frames.

Zoe at the lightbox

A bright light shines through the white paper to ease tracing the lines and shapes for the animator.

If you would like to also have a light box, learn how to make one yourselves! Visit

In order to accurately position the animation drawings, a system of "registration" is necessary.

Back in the 1910's, while making "Gertie the Dinosaur", Winsor McCay used small inked crosses in the corners of his drawings to position the papers correctly. This is a tedious and rather inaccurate way.

The best registration method, and the only one used professionally nowadays, is the "peg bar":

Peg bar

As shown, there are several different types of peg bars, the "Acme" type being the most common. The "Disney" type was used for a time at the Disney studio, but they have converted to Acme, too.

These peg bars all have one central, round peg and two oblong pegs on each side. Earlier, well into the 1940's, only two round pegs were often used even by the major studios. But the oblong pegs, and the corresponding perforations that are a bit wider than the pegs, ensure that there is no wrinkling or tearing even if there is a slight shrinkage (or stretching) of the paper or cel.

A peg bar is usually made of metal, but less expensive, plastic "student" bars are also available from animation supply houses. The peg bar enables the animator to keep a whole bunch of drawings in perfect register, and since a pegbar is also used on the scanner or camera, the positioning will always be correct even in later phases of the production.

In addition to peg bars, a paper / cell punch is also needed. This is a heavy duty perforator, that can accurately punch the 3 holes in a stack of up to 10 sheets of paper or 5 cels.


Next, all paper or transparent ('cells') sheets (simply A4 in landscape) are punched with three holes

Shown left hole

Then, the little peg bar with two knobs and a pin in the middle is taped to the round shining disk to block the paper from moving about.

Peg bar taped onto the disk.

Following we have been given a sheet made up of different frame sizes (used by the camera to 'frame' the drawings), of which I copied the borders onto my first white paper. This is going to be my 'stage' !

Border of frame, big enough to draw into, small enough to film.

Zoe explained that in order to be on the safe side, start objects moving onto the 'stage' partly outside of the border. This would make sure that no cut-off parts would be shown when filmed at a wider frame size.

In addition, our animation story should start somewhere on an 'empty' stage, bring objects onto the stage, and leave the stage 'empty' again at the end of the animation. The backdrop of the stage required a special, reusable frame, called the background. It would shine-through through sheets on top.

My background was made up of a seaside with dark clouds, a setting sun, and calmly rolling waves.

Background sheet, slightly crossing the border.

NOTE: You may see the division into nine squares shining through the background. That I have done intentionally. I learned in movie making that one's composition is more interesting to the viewer if things are not precisely in the centre of the frame, but rather in the outer squares. It allows for some 'living space' either in front or behind objects in view.

The choice I made to use a seaside as my background is because I like the possibility of bringing the three main elements into motion during the animation (clouds going sideways, the sun going downwards, and the waves rolling towards the viewer).

Animation possibilities of the background

And since I was at sea, why not have a "Lighthouse" in front...

Sample of a lighthouse

I am quite pleased with yet another possibility to animate, the lens flares of the light beam that comes from the lighthouse.

These I will draw and introduce someone visiting the lighthouse to complete my story of "The Lighthouse".




In the meantime, I have taking some pictures of other student work in the animation studio. Like the preparation of a stop-motion of a robot character.

PHASE 1: Gathering information, setting the “mood”

PHASE 2: Profiling character(s)

PHASE 3: Drawing characters

PHASE 4: Building models

PHASE 5: Filming the stop-motion (against a blue screen)

A wonderful web site about stop-motion can be found at which states:

an·i·ma·tion (n): The act, process or result of imparting life, interest, spirit, motion, or activity.

Recently two stop-motion movies have been released with much success:

Wallace & Gromit and The Curse of the Were Rabbit by Aardman Animations

Corpse Bride by Warner Bros.


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