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Author Topic: Best Effects animation
Floyd Bishop
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Hey everyone,

I'm about to do a bunch of effects animation for a short film project. While it is a CG film, I would like to bring a 2D animation sensability to the animation of the effects.

I'm wondering what films you feel have very well executed special effects.

For example, I've been watching the heck out of Michael Gagne's "Prelude to Eden". There are some amazing effects in there. "Iron Giant" and "The Incredibles" are also on my list of great effects animation.

Anyone have anything to add?

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Floyd Bishop
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Noogy
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I've always been a fan of Don Bluth film's because of their interesting use of effects. Just watch any of the older films, and you get some interested visual effects like lightning, bubbles, smoke, etc that you didn't really see anywhere else. You could almost say they went overboard with those effects, and would usually layer in some wild colors with it.

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-Dean Dodrill

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Mr. Fun
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When Don Bluth struck out on his own he had some darn good effects people on his staff. One of them was my friend, Dorse Lanpher who was trained by Disney's master effects animators.

I'm still a big fan of old school visual effects. They still feel more real to me than the synthetic digital stuff.

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Michael W Howe
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how about the work done on 'Prince of Egypt?' I don't know how it could compare on some lists, but the effects animation helped set some great moods for that piece-though to me, one of the best uses of mood lighting has to be after Ramses' son dies and Moses comes to Ramses, who tells him the Hebrews can go.

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"He did WHAT in his cup!??"

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Jasen
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Floyd- I think Michel worked on all the titles that you mentioned..? Maybe Master Gagne will chime in here. Someone flip on the Bat Signal.

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rostrum
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Fantasia and Pinocchio...flat out some of the best effects work ever put on screen by the masters

I was part of the effects team on Prince of Egypt, an incredible group of Disney and Bluth veterans, plus a mix of talent from around the world that made a hell of a department.

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Ganklin
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i remember hearing don bluth give a talk a few years back and he was talking about his early days when striking out on his own studio. he went on to say that effects animation was an important aspect to the process to him and achieving a higher standard was one of his goals.

i concur with rostrum...fantasia's got some slick stuff in there you're hard pressed to top today.

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Noogy
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Another amazing effects showpiece would definitely be Akira. Many of the larger anime pieces like Metropolis, Steamboy, etc have some absolutely sick effects animation, but Akira was one of the first that I remember that blew me out of my chair. I actually hurt for the artists who had to do all the effects in that film.

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-Dean Dodrill

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tstevens
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If you watch the Disney films after Beauty and The Beast, Most of them had effects that reflected the overall look of the film: In Alladin a lot of the effects look like Arabic script, everything in Hercules has curly cues, and in Mulan the effects have a more oriental look.

Design is critical in effects work for 2D.

Personally I've always really dug Mulan for Effects work: the smoke and fire designs are very hip indeed.

I can't argue with any of the above either. If you look at Pinochio the most impressive effects are when Pinochio is walking around under water. As mentioned, most anime films are pretty effects heavy: Ghost in The Shell is a primo example. AS for Don Bluth, he also cranked the effects animation especially with back-lighting (to this day I still don't think digital light looks as good as back-lit effects on camera).

The key thing to remember about the effects animation is that it should always be there to hi-lite story elements or compositional elements. If the effect draws attention to itself then it does you no good because it pulls people away from the story.

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slapmagic
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Another nod to Mr. Gagne, I'd like to add that I LOVED the effects in the Clone Wars vol. 1 and 2. The fluid design of the effects nicely complemented the character animation. Why they don't continue this series is beyond me. Genndy and Michel ... whew! that's a great combo. Is Mr. Gagne going to help out over at the Orphanage?
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Gagne Michel
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Glad to see people enjoys some of my FX work. I think my strongest FX animation was in Osmosis Jones.

slapmagic - no plan to work with Orphanage at this point... but who knows?

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slapmagic
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I have to also agree on Osmosis Jones. The effects made the movie for me.
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Ben Burgess
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The original film production of "Fantasia" by Disney was always referred to as, "We should go back to 1940 in order to push the state of the art of animation". This anecdote mainly applied to traditional animation which now has been eclipsed by computer animation.

[Confused] FX Question: The use of Litho Burn Ins, when did this bright, back lighting FX start to be widely used in animation production?

[biggrin] Some time in animation production possibly in the 70's for TV animation this hot light blasting effect was used in Saturday Morning shows.

Comparing "Fantasia" in production back lighting burn ins were never used. Example: a sparkle would be painted in a bright color on a cell or with dry brushing and this frame of art was shot with TOP LIGHTING. This look would be a softer bright lighting effect for a sparkle, but it worked very well.

But, somewhere in time this effect would be done with a NEGATIVE LITHO that is back lighted with use of colored gels on the camera bed and composited frame by frame into the intended scene. This would require backing up the camera film, a Bi-Packing of multi exposures to the same film strip or composited with an OPTICAL PRINTER onto film.
This gave the scene the look of intense lightning color blasting your eyes out. Explosion FX look good produced this way.
(Dorse Lanpher was really into this method.)

[Confused]
I don't know if it has been determined when this style of Litho Burn Ins FX started and by whom. Or, was it Norman McLaren? [Confused]

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q
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I'm somewhat interested in the history of effects
animation, and spent more than a few hours weeks months shooting camera and working with optical printers myself...My Cine Golden Eagle was for Camera Operation on an animation for a Museum display for the American Musem of Science and Technoogy in Oak Ridge Tennessee
Any way back to Back lit techniques

http://www.magiclantern.org.uk/history2.htm
This traces the use of Back lit Projection to the year 1420

but here's one (Magic Lantern projection) I like from 1866, see:
http://www.magiclantern.org.uk/animations4.htm

THe Sci fi films of George Melies 1902
use many multiple exposed elements..

Then think of the innovation of Ub Iwerks
with the multiple exposures and the multiplane
elements...

Josh Meador's Id Creature in Forbidden Planet 1956 is
just a basic burn in.

But for more recent innovation the "Candy Apple Neon" of Robert Able has a history to see:

(And interestingly enough the film they discuss in this interivew The first Star Trek Movie, was the first feature film I ever worked on>)

http://www.robsacc.nl/ottens/forgottentrek_interview-taylor.html

Here's a part of the interview with Richard Taylor from that link:
Q: What can you tell us about your background and that of Robert Abel and Associates?

A: At Abel studios, Con Pederson was one of the main people there. He was one of the effects directors on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Doug Trumbull generally gets more credit, but Con was one of the main forces behind 2001. He had worked at Graphics Films for years and had done the Encyclopedia Britannica films on the Universe. So, Con was a big hero of mine because 2001 was my favorite effects film when I was in college art school. Not until Star Wars was there another significant groundbreaking effects film and that spurred Paramount on to do the Trek feature. They contacted the Abel studios because we were pretty much cutting edge at that time. At that time however, there was Apogee and Trumbull 's Studio, so I don't know why they contacted us specifically. I don't know if you know my background but it had something to do with the work we created at the Abel Studio. In the late 1960s I co-created a lightshow and graphics company called Rainbow Jam. Our light show was not like any of the other light shows in it's technique or design. We toured with the Grateful Dead and did shows at The Fillmore, The Family Dog, Winterland and other San Francisco concert venues. Our show used 32 Ektographic slide projectors and four motion picture projectors. The projectors lined up graphically with each other so it created a scene on the screen that was in a proportion of one high by four wide by six levels deep. My partner and I basically drew all the scenes by hand with Rapidiograph ink pens and used original photography to create the images in black on white illustration board. We would then make the next layers of images by using the same techniques only on frosted Mylar overlays. Once we were finished with what we called "a Wall " we would reduce the images to hi-con film (opaque black and clear) and make positive and negative images that we then mounted on glass slides. Each projector had an on/off key, a color wheel, dimmer, focus and zoom that were operated by the two of us from control consoles. What we were doing was projecting lithography with light. We were painting with light. In essence that technique is what I brought to Abel studios; the difference was the artwork was on an animation stand with a light box and I was making multiple exposures onto film. This back-light compositing technique became known as "candy-apple neon." Of course at the Abel Studio Con Pederson was the expert in slit-scan and streak photography as well as other animation and compositing tricks. These unique animation and compositing skills kind of melded together there and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. We evolved some new effects tricks and created the "SEE THE LIGHT" commerctography.

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Ravenshoe
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We used to do multiple back-lit runs for commercials back in the late 70's early 80's. Star bursts, glints, gleams, slit scans. At one point we started winding our own star filters to create unique one of a kind effects.

The big problem with back lit (in camera) effects happened when one color passed in front of another. Red and yellow rarely produced orange as in subractive color theory. The real killer was when you messed up and tried to burn a color over white. Our cameraman chased me down the hallways (with an exact-o knife in his hand) on more than one occasion. Aah, the good old days...

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Ben Burgess
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"Q", That was good info about where all this back lighting FX started!
[bow]
The winners!
Con Pederson and Richard Taylor and Robert Abel Studios laid down the way to do it! Mid to late 60's.
"2001 SPACE ODYSSEY", 1968, this was the film that set off the craze!
[Wink]
Again thanks to "Q" as mentioned previously;
Prior to this way of doing "SEE THE LIGHT FX", one other film, "FORBIDDEN PLANET" 1956, Josh Meador must have used LITHO NEGATIVE BURN IN BACK LIGHTING with multiple camera passes.
The film was backed up frame by frame exactly in the animation camera to composite this effect.

[Wink] Some tricks of the trade here:

He may have used a 6B black Conte pencil on white paper to create a film strip of back lighting NEGATIVE TYPE BURN IN for the "ID" character in this film. Or, did he use white Conte pencil on black Exciter paper to create a POSITIVE BURN IN on the strip of film? This would require multiple exposures composited onto film. We would see the "ID" character like a percent transparency double exposure.
[Yes]
During the production of "FANTASIA" which premiered in 1940, a common way to do a sparkle effect was to paint, air brush, the art work onto a clear cell. This was then placed over a BLACK CELL OR BLACK EXCITER PAPER, which was exposed in percentages of transparent exposure onto a new film strip.
Also, black pastel chalk could be used on white animation paper and exposed to film and use this film POSITIVE as a burn in composite strip in the Optical Printer.
This bit of film composite would in effect be double exposed into the composited film to give the effect of sparkles that looks like soft fire works.

Soft chalk Pastels can be used onto black Exciter paper to create colorful effects. This art can be turned into a NEGATIVE film strip and work like a litho burn in for a softer look!
It has a nice soft burning appearance, [Eek!] but, it is not like bright lightning, blasting your eyes out.

So, COMPOSITING NEGATIVE OR POSITIVE FILM STRIPS into an OPTICAL PRINTER can create the BURN IN LOOK for various percentage brightness.

If you look at any of the Disney Classic Animation Films usually that was the bright effect to use. PETER PAN and Tinkerbell used some soft back lighting burn in effects created as outlined above. Up until, maybe the Devil's Eye sequence [bawling] in the "THE RESCUERS", where there was use of bright back lighting.

[Yes]
I think the original question of effects in general used in animation is a study in the history of filmaking. The Museum Of Moving Images in a few major cities is really worth seeing if you have time. I was able to see the one in London, it was great!

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rostrum
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I remember effects master Don Paul saying to me once that many of the effects techniques used in the original Disney films, specifically Fantasia, could never be duplicated again, because no one knows how they were done. Experimentation was such an important part of these films. And most important, record keeping was needed to because some of the techniques were so complicated for some of the camera methods used.

Mulitple camera passes, morie effects, exposure times, gels, bi-packing, ripple glass, use of plexi-plass etc. These methods are almost gone and in some way getting lost, because of the advent of the computer. And in some respects the equipment necessary is hard to find.

These were fun days. Working on a computer does not replace the days working under beaming hot lights, an arched back over a camera stand or fumbling to find exposure settings in the dark.

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Ravenshoe
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Physical, under-the-camera techniques were also studio "secrets". One place had metallic "glints" down to a fine art, while another studio never quite got the hang of it. (When I went out on my own I used glints so much in retail TV commercials, it became a joke on my reel.)

One studio inked and painted hi-con mattes onto cel by hand, while another place (an optical house) simply did paper "garbage mattes", shot them on hi-con and used them in the optical printer or as bi-pack matte elements - a huge savings of time & money.

The one thing I never saw in use at any studio - we had them but never used them - was an aerial image projector.

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tstevens
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We talked about buying an aerial image projector for several years to combine animation and live together but by the eighties it was all being done in editing. It would have actually made rotoscoping from film easier though. We use to project the print back from the camera down onto the table and rotscope it (which is a pain because your casting your own shadow down onto the compound).

I can remember having to cut mattes out of black construction paper or exiter paper for back lit effects. One of the things I hated the most was shooting top lit onto black - every spec of dust would light up like a flare. Back-lit burn-ins always looked the best.

If you watch Nightmare Before Christmas nearly all of the effects were done in camera with mulitple passes and beam splitters. The opening shot trucking into the forest has beams of light that cut through the trees that were actually done as white poster board cut-outs on a double exposure.

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Ravenshoe
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Instead of black construction paper, we had this weird construction paper that had a polished black surface. The studio had tons of it, never seen it anywhere else before or since. It eliminated the dust/hair problem.
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q
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first of all pardon all spelling errors I am about to make.

Re old style techniques..
If you have some cash to spend pick up this dvd to see the doc on Herman Shultheis notebooks
included in this DVD on Fantasia

http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=3986


just quoting here:
'Special Effects of Fantasia' is a single documentary focusing on… well, the title rather gives it away. And it's a subject that's well worth discussing separately, as the various smoke, water, fire, multi-plane and similar effects were genuinely groundbreaking at the time - and all the more impressive for being achieved without the aid of computers or many of the tools that special effects technicians would consider essential today. Thankfully, effects genius Herman Schultheis kept a copiously annotated scrapbook of his work that revealed how many of his most startling visual coups were achieved (volcanic eruptions were upside-down footage of ink being poured into water tanks, that kind of thing). This is riveting stuff, and one of the high points of the disc - and at just under five minutes it's far too short! "


Ps I shared a room with Don Paul for awhile back at the early Bluth studio. ... when Dorse Lanpher was our boss. If you want more info bout
Josh Meador I could call his son Phil and ask him. I bought a
painting by Josh Meador about ten years ago, from his son, I'm looking at it now.


PS John Cnemaker wrote a great article about the Shultheis notebooks in the 1996 April PRINT Magazine. I have a xerox of that, given to me by the wonderful Bob Mcknight, when we were both designing scenes for THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Bob did the Character Design an I did the guess what Effects Design and everything had to look like a
forgotten film from the Disney archives circa 1936 so we did alittle research.
Why do I smile whenever I think of Bob McKnight? Don't you?

Briefly: Here is the review of the Canemaker article on the Shultheis notebooks about the Fantasia Effects.. Given to me By Bob McKnight from AWN....

SECRETS OF DISNEY'S VISUAL EFFECTS: THE SCHULTHEIS NOTEBOOKS is an article by John Canemaker in the March/April issue of PRINT ($7.50 at news stands). This is an impressive fact-filled article about the discovery and content of notebooks by Herman Schultheis who worked in the Disney processing lab and then in the special effects camera department from 1938-'41. The 9 page article is beautifully illustrated and it made me want to see the entire manuscript. If all goes well the manuscript may be published. Howard Lowery would like to see it come out in a facsimile limited edition.

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"Thank you. And bring it on."

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q
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Dang. Well here's an off topic digression but anyway....
Howard Lowery owns some of the pages from that famous notebook. He sells stuff on ebay. Check out right this instant he's selling some layouts from Fantasia!

http://www.howardlowery.com/
(click on check auctions to link t his ebay auctions)

Well I'm off to enjoy a vaction now. so see ya later!

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Ben Burgess
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THIS IS GOING TO BE A LOST ANIMATION ART SOMEDAY!

A reply to the above mentioned by Ravenshoe; The weird black construction paper with a shinney surface, that is either a thin stock or thicker stock of Exciter paper which is shinney black on one side and flat surface black on the other side. Exciter black paper punched is used as a hold out/block out matt in areas where no light will get through except for the burn in pattern area.

This type paper was used at Disney and Bluth Studios for back lighting burn ins. You can can put animation paper over this exciter paper and use an exacto knife to cut out/ cut through both paper areas for the burn in patterns needed. You can tape colored gels in the pattern areas to expose to the animation camera bed.
This paper had to be paper punched for the reg holes first of all. It also came in PAN length sizes for various fields needed.

Because Exciter paper comes in a thin shinney stock it was easier to cut or needel punch holes through its surface.

The thicker Exciter punched paper is for artistic durability like for pastels or for a strong hold out matt that will stand up to use.

COMPOSITING MULTIPLE PASSES ON THE ANIMATION CAMERA STAND USING BACK LIGHT TECHNIQUES:
Think of putting the film matting eliments into the film strip much like you would a jig saw puzzle. This was done backing up the camera film frame by frame which is exactly calibrated.

CELLS CAN BE USED AS A MAT, ALSO LIKE A HOLD OUT MAT for back lighting exposed to film.

In traditional animation the back of the painted colored cel or cels that will be used as a block out negative area will be painted BLACK ON THE BACK SIDE.

Some times a cel or cels will be painted ON THE BACK SIDE A MEDIUM GRAY VINYL PAINT COLOR FOR MATTING PURPOSES TO BLOCK OUT BACK LIT LIGHT. This was all done by the hand process back in the olden days.

A mirror image for cell painting was making two identical cels, But, one cel for a character is painted on the back so the contour lines will show as normal.
The other cel will be flipped over and re-peg registered and placed somewhat below the normal view.

So, you have two opposing cels that mirror eachother. This second flipped cel requires an experienced cel painter that paints on the TOP SURFACE OF THE CEL and buts or juxtapose the vinyl paint to the other paint area and leave NO CONTOUR OUT LINE.
Not having a hard line makes this cel image look slightly soft focused and mirror like in appearance.

This second mirror cel will then be shot in the camera like double exposed at a percentage transparency, not like the NORMAL CEL which is shot at 100% exposure.
[Wink]

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q
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I thought Hoop mighta posted some of the notes but here is Sari Gennis Pixie effects notes.
All that Exeter stuff we used to do....
This is why we love Jon Hooper. Oh yeah and Steve S too. Animationmeat forever

http://www.animationmeat.com/pdf/featureanimation/ferngullyeffects.pdf

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"Thank you. And bring it on."

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