Tips for speeding up inking/colouring/animating in general?

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Joined: 13 Jul 2010, 18:13

Tips for speeding up inking/colouring/animating in general?

Post by MightyOtaking » 30 May 2020, 20:02

Hello all,

Paul “OtaKing” Johnson here. I’ve been using TVPaint for 10 years now, and made both of these short films using the program (you might even have seen the first one around the internet someplace):
(Sorry that they're links and not embedded videos. I can't seem to get the Youtube embedding to work!)

As you can see from the upload dates, it’s currently taking me about 3 years to produce a 6-7 minute animation with just me alone drawing, animating and painting everything myself. It’s gotten to the point where I really need to start speeding up the process somehow or I’ll be 60 years old before I make anything full-length!
I’m just wondering if anyone knows of a way using TVPaint 11 Pro (or any sort of workaround, really) that would help me speed up the process of inking my frames? I currently work pretty traditionally; draw a keyframe, draw another keyframe, then turn on lightbox and draw a bunch of inbetweens.
It’s as time consuming as you’d expect: (You can see just how primitive and slow my inking and colouring process is just from this video, and why I need to evolve)

Is there some kind of arcane method of automatically creating inbetweens? A plugin or something that can look at two keyframes and intelligently generate an inbetween drawing between the two points? I know this seems like a bit of a longshot, but anything to help me cut down time will help at this point.
I must admit that I really only use pretty basic TVP functions so I’m not sure if I’m missing out on any amazing timesaving tools. I really only use penbrush on size 3, the lightbox, and fill tool for colouring. Oh, and glow, for glows on my explosions. All my camera moves, etc are composited in Sony Vegas. So I’m probably missing out on all kinds of features due to being an old man who’s bad at new things.

For combining 2D and 3D, I use the following process:

Well, thanks for reading. Here are a few process shots of the film I’m currently working on, if anyone fancies taking a look.

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Re: Tips for speeding up inking/colouring/animating in general?

Post by slowtiger » 30 May 2020, 21:29

First: that's very impressive work you have, and I couldn't draw in that style for the life of me.

You don't do anything wrong in your workflow, I just have a feeling that it could be improved in so many places. Here's some thoughts of mine:
- Use keyboard shortcuts. Don't click in the tool menu, use a key. Learn how to modify the key mapping (in the prefs). Don't click in timeline, use arrow keys to navigate to next frame, page up/down to start/end.
- Rotate your canvas. It's so much easier to get the line right if it's more or less vertical and curved with your hand as pivot point.
These two points alone should speed you up significantly. I always have one hand on the keyboard while drawing.
- Create your own tools and make keyboard shortcuts for them. It's possible to have each colour as a separate tool in a custom panel, but your method is equally useful.
- The Filled Stroke tool needs a shortcut since you should use it much more often.

My colouring process basically works like this:
- Check line art for missing lines, add those.
- Create a new layer. (I have auto break activated all the time so when I proceed one frame and draw it creates a new frame automatically. Oh, and I made "create new layer" a shortcut as well.)
- With the line layers (yes, more than one) on top, I use Fill with Source: Display and colour the whole character in one or two broad colours. The Expand value is set to half the line thickness, Gap set to 0 in the first pass.
- All those pesky little corners which won't fill - ignore them up to the last pass.
- I go through all frames and fill. If any area isn't closed, I just hit cmd-Z and proceed with next area.
- In a second pass I set Gap to 1 or 2 and fill what's empty in all frames. Again, anything spilling over: cmd-Z and just leave empty.
- Third pass. Use Filled Stroke tool with Mode: Behind to fill remaining areas. With this mode you don't need to be exact everywhere = faster.
- Switch off line layers. Check for little gaps (set background to some contrasting colour if necessary), use Filled Stroke.
- Switch on line Layers. Set colour layer to Mask. Create new layer on top of it. Again, masking makes you faster as you don't have to care for the overall outline.
- Use whatever tool does the job best to colour all small areas: Fill, Filled Stroke, or a brush. Last pass is a small brush for the bastards in the corners.
- Always go through whole scene with one colour, then next colour.
- You can have more than one colour layer, this may make sense for doing shadows later.

Now your style is beautiful but really hard, not easy to animate, and a lot of work to colour. Some tricks to get faster:
- Have more than one line art layer. Have one layer with just the head and hair outline. Have another for all the little strokes and details. Switch this one off for the first round of colouring - instead of 10 clicks for the hair you just need one now.
- All tool settings can be stored in the bin for that tool, so you don't have to adjust them each time.

If I were your Production Manager, I'd decide:
- All solid objects are to be created in 3D, rendered in two passes, as line art and coloured (toon shader?) without lines, then imported into TVP for further colouring.
- Same for backgrounds. Have a basic colouring in 3D, then do the details in TVP.

In general I have the feeling that your films suffer from over-production: lots of stuff which doesn't add much to story, but take up lots of work time. Those camera moves around a character: that's a 2000's bad habit from CGI and remote controlled camera rigs. In the 80's we didn't do that. Instead we storyboarded cuts at the right moment. There's some rules about the sequence of establishing shot - medium shot - close-up, they all have a function regarding to story. Hitchcock said: don't waste the close-up, reserve it for the drama's climax.

As your Producer I'd strongly limit the number of objects in every shot: you don't need the whole fleet be visible all the time, you just do it where it counts - overuse makes it less impressive. Animated camera moves have to be reserved for only the most important story bits. Most shots don't need that much animation anyways: a clever camera move, some two or three levels of multiplane, and only one object/character really doing something. There's a reason why soldiers running about are animated from the side: run cycle, simple camera pan. Never rest the camera on something difficult to animate (everything along Z-axis, just for show-off), have a hold and a small movement, then cut.

That shot with an eye filling the screen: never more than once in a movie. In general, check all shots if the audience instantly recognize what's in it, and where they are now. This should all be done in storyboarding. Check timing: few scenes need characters constantly move from start to end. Use more pauses, stills, moving holds, especially in camera movements.

SFX: is that reflection really necessary? Can it add to story, like giving more information? Don't clutter your screen with stylish interfaces, think usability for fighter pilots: important stuff only, and presented in a way that it doesn't cover field of vision. Don't use letters when blurred lines will do.

That's all I can think of right now. Hope you find something useful in there.
TVP 10.0.18, Mac Pro Quadcore 3 GHz, 16 GB RAM, OS 10.11, QT 7.7.3

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