Cutting the cost of cel animation

Cutting the Cost of Cel Animation

By Les Ranyard

My interest in animation began very early in my cine hobby with hand drawn titles and short cartoons drawn directly onto blank 9.5 film – this was very difficult as anyone who has done it will agree – to keep your subject in the same position in the frame – being unable to overtrace – then like many of us, I changed over to Super 8 which made this medium almost impossible due to the reduced frame size.

It was a long while before I became interested again in any form of animation, though I did keep up my interest in art work in many forms – doing mostly cartoons for publications etc. for the company I work for. Then using a light box, I tried my first white paper animation for some titles I required. This was followed by a short cartoon using the same method, which went down well with my grandchildren at the next Christmas show.

I saw the Filmcraft advert in movie Maker magazine and sent for their price list etc. I quickly realised that a cartoon of any respectable length, using cels, could become very costly – what with the number of cels required, ink and paints – a suitable rostrum, (I had a good single frame camera) so I almost shelved the idea.

After a little thought, and reading up on rostrums for cartoon work, my D.I.Y. background took over and I decided to build myself a suitable rostrum. This done I sent off my order for cels, pens and paint. The cels I chose were the 10 field size. When my order arrived I found I had failed to order a peg bar, again my D.I.Y. mind came into it’s own and I decided to use an office punch with a home made peg bar for the two holes.

To my delight, not wanting to spend too much of the ‘ready’, I found that if I punched both ends of the ccl I could got two frames per cel, thus reducing my production costs by half. I admit that I lost out on the drawn detail by using the reduced cal area but I was glad to find it wasn’t so obvious when projected. So began my first production using the cel format.

I was delighted with the results. I added sound effects from a tape library I had built up over the years. At the next Christmas family gathering the whole thing was received with the desired effect by my grandchildren.

From that day I was hooked, at last I had a medium where I could use my drawing gifts to entertain my grandchildren. So my wife became an ‘animation widow’ as I took over the spare room for my equipment.

First I made a drawing board, to take my re-punched cels. This enabled me to take my cels, backgrounds and pens anywhere and would sit with the board on my knee and instead of watching TV I would draw off masses of cels at every opportunity. I found too that if I left the tissue separator in place I was able to get a better detailed copy of the previous ccl. This speeded up the production of cels, only to be slowed dawn when it came to the painting of them.

I still have not found a quick way of adding the colour, the fastest way so far I have found, is to use one colour for a batch of cels, spreading them everywhere to dry, the reason for the spare room, then when dry start again with the next colour. I would welcome any idea that would speed up this process as I am always well ahead with the drawn cels waiting for painting.

The next cost problem I had was the short life of the photoflood lamps. Then along came CANON with a cine camera that would take flash. I got the 1O14XL sound camera plus a close up lens and a mains powered flash unit. Since then I have never looked back. I still keep the photofloods which I use for fades, having rigged up a dimmer unit into the circuit. I find this more easy to use than the camera fade unit and it saves on lamp life too.

I find the added bonus of flash is that you can set up your camera with the aperture required and all your frames get the same amount of light throughout your production.
Nothing spoils any single frame shot films more than differently lit frames caused by switching tungsten lights on and off for each frame. The result of different warming up times.
To add to my sound effects, I used the older of my grandchildren who added the desired sound effect on ‘queue’, sometimes. This was a huge joke, with masses of retakes, till the desired effect was obtained. This was the lighter side of animation, enjoyed by all who took part in it, most of the time, except when the wife would poke her head round the door, asking if we want a ‘cuppa’. Back to the start again, after the children had stopped laughing at my remarks to my fast retreating wife.

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