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Time-Lapse Digital Cartooning
March 13, 2008 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Ever want to watch a comics page get drawn at ridiculous speed? I've been reading Mer's comics since day one, but seeing an entire strip drawn and inked as a movie is almost better than watching an animated cartoon.

Before anyone asks, she's using a semi-obscure app called Manga Studio on a Cintiq monitor. I've never met anyone else who can make MS work this well. I'm posting this partly in the hope of tricking her into doing an online tutorial.
posted by clango (45 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
ObTerribleStrainOnTheAnimators'Wrists
posted by DU at 7:45 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, this is the same Mer who used to do Skirting Danger. That was a great silly thing and now it's gone. She never finished the last story line. :-(
posted by fleetmouse at 7:52 AM on March 13, 2008


And that was really, really cool. Of the thousands of things I want to do before I die, getting really good at drawing is definitely in the top 20.
posted by DU at 7:53 AM on March 13, 2008


What really struck me on watching this was the amount of post hoc correction going into every panel. I'm not webcomicker, but I always imagined they planned out their comics more than this. The initial framing of the panels stayed constant, but everything else shifted within it.

Someone who knows more than me on this subject (i.e., probably everyone): how were comics done in The Olde Days? How would George Herriman have done a similar thing?
posted by barnacles at 7:54 AM on March 13, 2008


Someone who knows more than me on this subject (i.e., probably everyone): how were comics done in The Olde Days? How would George Herriman have done a similar thing?

Probably very similarly, with non-copying blue drafting pencil.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:03 AM on March 13, 2008


That was fun to watch, especially the 'time for 5 o'clock shadow!' part.
posted by Mach5 at 8:04 AM on March 13, 2008


Huh, really interesting. As someone who does it sort of the Olde Fashioned Way (at least until the inked pages are scanned), it's interesting to see what's the same and what's different. Like barnacles says, I'm used to having to do a hell of a lot more planning in the layout stage. To me, the ability to fuss around with figures inside the panels would just be an infinite timesuck as I kept tweaking and tweaking and tweaking. For me, at least, keeping things sloppy and analog* is a bulwark against insanity.

*except, of course, for coloring and lettering and general cleanup.
posted by COBRA! at 8:10 AM on March 13, 2008


That was neat to see.

IANAArtist, but if you're doing everything digitally (and you're constantly re-doing as you go), then what is the purpose of the first step involving the blue? Couldn't you do the whole thing in black?
posted by emelenjr at 8:12 AM on March 13, 2008


That was very cool - things like this always make me feel a little guilty - so much time and effort put in, and I look at it for 20 seconds, smile, shrug or scowl and move on, never to return...
posted by jontyjago at 8:28 AM on March 13, 2008


I believe the blue step is there to get rough ideas of placement and perspective that you can't see when you zoom in (either literally with software or mentally and with a pencil in hand) to do the fine details.
posted by DU at 8:32 AM on March 13, 2008


Does anyone know what software was used to film that? Last month I was looking for something that'll do a stop-frame screencast on a Mac, but I just couldn't find anything.
posted by seanyboy at 8:48 AM on March 13, 2008


Does anyone know what software was used to film that? Last month I was looking for something that'll do a stop-frame screencast on a Mac, but I just couldn't find anything.

Gawker does it.
posted by interrobang at 8:56 AM on March 13, 2008


Snapz Pro, maybe. http://www.ambrosiasw.com/utilities/snapzprox/
posted by kira at 8:56 AM on March 13, 2008


Does anyone know what software was used to film that?

For some reason Manga Studio comes to mind, but I'm not sure why. *cough*
posted by pardonyou? at 8:57 AM on March 13, 2008


emelenjr : what is the purpose of the first step involving the blue? Couldn't you do the whole thing in black?

It's for workflow. You can do the blue-line work more roughly and with more revisions and without having to be especially economical with the lines. Then once you're ready, you can do the (more-or-less) final black-line work in a way that's closer to one single, confident flourish, with the previous (blue) lines showing you were to go without obscuring everything in a big scribbly mess. Working digitally does blur the, uh, line between the lines somewhat, but it's still useful to have that distinction.
posted by Drexen at 8:57 AM on March 13, 2008


I believe the blue step is there to get rough ideas of placement and perspective that you can't see when you zoom in (either literally with software or mentally and with a pencil in hand) to do the fine details.

Yeah, it's usually a good idea to see roughly how the whole page will look, how the panels and figures work together.
posted by COBRA! at 9:03 AM on March 13, 2008


Videos like this are a lot of fun to watch. I love seeing how illustrators work. And now I want a Cintiq even more than I already did.
posted by Nedroid at 9:06 AM on March 13, 2008


COBRA!, I went to your profile but I don't see a link to sweet comicky goodness! Do show!

Also be advised that, unless I'm too late, your next comment will be your 1000th on the blue.
posted by Drexen at 9:11 AM on March 13, 2008


I guess my 1000th comment will be a link to my webcomic.
(for what it's worth, there's a typo in the current strip; I just found it, and it'll be fixed shortly)

I also just remembered that I made a very sloppy "The Making of..." for the analog half of the process.
posted by COBRA! at 9:23 AM on March 13, 2008


Manga Studio is used to draw the comic. Not record the video.
Gawker doesn't seem to take pictures of your computer screen.
Snapzpro doesn't appear to have any information about creating stop frame animations.

*sigh*
posted by seanyboy at 9:30 AM on March 13, 2008


That was neat. But he could save a bunch of time by saving out some of his layers and making a vector library of voice bubbles, eyes, mouths, hands, hair, and other objects.
posted by tkchrist at 9:32 AM on March 13, 2008


Gawker doesn't seem to take pictures of your computer screen.

No, it does, it's just not obvious. If you want to mefimail me, I can tell you how.

posted by interrobang at 9:37 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


But he could save a bunch of time by saving out some of his layers and making a vector library of voice bubbles, eyes, mouths, hands, hair, and other objects.

I can see voice bubbles, but I think it'd a mistake to do the rest as just replaceable parts from a vector library. The tiny variances in each individual drawing that make comic art; if you're just cutting and pasting, you might work more quickly, but you loose something.
posted by COBRA! at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ooh, nice comic. Thanks for the rec.
posted by WalterMitty at 9:45 AM on March 13, 2008


For the record, I think that is presented (technically) at "Ludicrous Speed". Luckily, it didn't go the plaid.
posted by indiebass at 9:57 AM on March 13, 2008


The tiny variances in each individual drawing that make comic art; if you're just cutting and pasting, you might work more quickly, but you loose something.

Seconded. Nothing sucks the life out of a comic strip faster than cutting and pasting.
posted by krf at 10:33 AM on March 13, 2008


wow, I need to stop typing while distracted. Please pretend that my "tiny variances" line begins with "it's" and ends with "lose something." Dammit.
posted by COBRA! at 10:51 AM on March 13, 2008


Manga Studio is used to draw the comic. Not record the video.

Ah, my apologies -- I misread the post.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:04 AM on March 13, 2008


Live tonight! The Blazecocks and the Astro Zombies!" Heh.
posted by Richard Daly at 12:20 PM on March 13, 2008


Seconded. Nothing sucks the life out of a comic strip faster than cutting and pasting.

As an old boss of mine used to say, "Never draw anything you can trace; never trace anything you can cut out and paste in."

This was Wally Wood. He was kidding... Then again, he had a swipe file you wouldn't believe.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:44 PM on March 13, 2008


how were comics done in The Olde Days?

A half dozen non-photo blue pencils, a dozen or so wood-bound graphite pencils, an xacto knife for sharpening the pencils, a kneaded eraser, sand paper for making the pencils very dangerous, an eraser bag, a couple of old pink and white erasers you've worn down to wedges, a mechanical eraser dispenser plus plenty of erasers to go into it, and a few more erasers of various sorts just in case, a shaving brush for carefully brushing away eraser detritus, various ink brushes, pens, toothpicks, and myriad other kinds of sticks, toothbrushes, sponges, and whatever else you may have found that looked like they might possibly some day come in handy for creating ink effects, a large supply of india ink, a gallon jug of white out, a bundle of medium bristol board about 12" x 18", tracing paper, transfer paper, artist's tape, 12" and 18" rulers, a larger 3' ruler, a french curve, a flexible curve, an L square, a T square, a set square, a compass, a large beam compass, a protractor, a lettering guide, circle and ellipse templates, drafting tables are very helpful, so are stools to go with them, and a projector could come in handy, your drug of choice (coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol not included), plenty of coffee and cigarettes, and alcohol for the rough patches. I may have left something out. I used to have a lot of rough patches and it's been a while.
posted by effwerd at 12:50 PM on March 13, 2008 [9 favorites]


effwerd, You forgot Zip-a-Tone! Or even the Letraset stuff... *sniff* Those were the days...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:07 PM on March 13, 2008


I think it's interesting that they start out with non-repro blue pencil blue in the beginning even though the artwork never goes anywhere near anything that is insensitive to it.
posted by Dave Faris at 1:25 PM on March 13, 2008


Back in the day, Dave Faris, the art was photgraphed for offset, as I'm sure you know... anything that was dark enough got picked up by the camera. Even lead pencil... which is why the pages had to be erased. (What a pain in the ass that was.) But blue pencil, commonly used to block out pages/panels, was not seen by the camera. So you had a pass at the page in blue to get stuff more or less set up the way you wanted... then you'd go to work with the lead pencil, ink, etc. I did hundreds of pages that way. These days whenever I do any drawing, even a preparatory sketch for a painting, I invariably do it in blue pencil. The habit was so deeply ingrained in me that I have never lost it.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:39 PM on March 13, 2008


Which is why it's interesting that they use it for sketching inside photoshop.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:08 PM on March 13, 2008


You forgot Zip-a-Tone!

Oh, yes. I never used that stuff. I always frustrated myself with hatch work and stipple.

Regarding using non-photo blue in digital work, I still use the color today as well, and it's because of habit, too. Certainly, you could use a dark gray or black (or any color really) to sketch and then just dim back the layer or whatever and use a new layer for refining but there's something rather reassuring about that kind of light blue. The sketch doesn't seem to get muddy and it provides great contrast when you're refining with a darker line.
posted by effwerd at 2:24 PM on March 13, 2008


Jeeze, that's fun.

I never did comics, but I did art school back in the early 80s, pre-digital anything, and I have the same reaction as almost everyone above: it's so *provisional*. The flow of change is constant -- and while I can see how useful it would be (let's move the arm, shift this figure over, re-frame everything) it's also a bit shocking.

The artist isn't working on an object that can be damaged by too much handling, and it costs nothing to move stuff around. Planning, at least at the detail stage, is pointless.

But you also never get that wonderful moment where the object tells you it's done.
posted by jrochest at 3:41 PM on March 13, 2008


wow this is really cool!
posted by locoindio at 4:25 PM on March 13, 2008


I can see voice bubbles, but I think it'd a mistake to do the rest as just replaceable parts from a vector library. The tiny variances in each individual drawing that make comic art; if you're just cutting and pasting, you might work more quickly, but you loose something.

So my library of Insta-Joke Macros and the stable of low paid Korean animators is some sort of problem?
posted by tkchrist at 5:29 PM on March 13, 2008


Hey, as long as they're North Korean, you're aces by me.
posted by COBRA! at 6:24 PM on March 13, 2008


But you also never get that wonderful moment where the object tells you it's done.
Phrases like these are why no one takes art school seriously.
posted by device55 at 7:04 PM on March 13, 2008


he could save a bunch of time by saving out some of his layers and making a vector library of voice bubbles, eyes, mouths, hands, hair, and other objects.

There was a comic published recently that essentially copy and pasted art from panel to panel, with occasional edits or flipping that was so blatant as to be laughable, but damned if I can find it.

Freedom Fighters, maybe?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:35 PM on March 13, 2008


Yay! I was right! Ten Sad Points for me!

It can be an effective technique if done properly and in the right context (Illustrating a delayed reaction, for example), but that's some gratuitously lazy-ass shit right there.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:38 PM on March 13, 2008


One man's lazy is another man's economizing. Take a look at how one of the better animated web-toons, Cooking with Bigfoot, is done, using classic limited animation techinques including libraries of poses, mouths, hands, etc: http://www.toddgallina.com/how/2.html
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:03 AM on March 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


As a wannabe cartoonist, watching these videos makes me want to kill myself sometimes.

I used to use a light grey to do a rough sketch to get all the placements and posing right before going over it in black. Then a few months ago, I saw another Meredith Gran video which inspired to try blue for the sketch, and ended up liking it a lot better. I think effword is right about the contrast between the colors.

Here's an interesting history of non-photo blue pencils.
posted by finrod at 10:25 PM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


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