I’ve been doing a lot of fairly intricate animation lately, for an online company called Espresso, who make educational software and tools for education. I did some banner animations for them at the beginning of the year where you could drag the weightless characters around a tall, narrow box in different directions and they’d react as they hit the sides, or if you did nothing they’d exhibit a range of actions from bored, to impatient, to distracted. It was basically a simulation of keeping children in a tall chimney in space.
There are seven characters in all, all carefully ethnically-balanced and including a dog and a puppy. The puppy’s easier to animate than the dog because he’s young and jumps instead of running, meaning that I only have to animate two sets of legs rather than four independent ones (those black-and-white Muybridge photo-series of animals and people running along in front of large grids help to demonstrate distinct gaits to four-legged creatures, but mostly they’re too difficult to animate quickly so we animators cheat slightly and treat them as two pairs of legs) as if he’s just jumping along, or constantly pouncing. It’s surprisingly effective, and is how I animated Sizzles, Marv’s creaky old sausage-dog in Charlie and Lola.
The tricky part of these animations is that the character has to end up in the right place each time, because the files are to be output as videos and joined up in different ways (called “hooking-up” in film terminology). If the character isn’t in the right place to join up there’ll be a visible pop. This also means that all the background and scenery have to hook up too – which means that if there are corrections to one part of the background that has to be copied and pasted exactly into each of the other files, and the further I get into this job the faster the files proliferate – it’s quite an undertaking just to open up all the current files and update them, not made easier by the fact that my computer is getting a bit creaky and that Flash CS5 is a bit overwhelming. But the animation’s fun and the characters remind me of working with Pesky, lo, these many years – the characters were actually designed by Claire Underwood and I first saw them about ten years ago when we were doing the first series of the <http://www.adrenalini.com”>Amazing Adrenalini Brothers</a>.