Check out "Pageant", episode 08 of The Awesomes, over on Hulu
! I was privileged to choreograph and key out a little bit of fight action for this one... 50 seconds (1200 frames), 20 characters, no camera cuts, all for a background joke. So worth it.
Most of the show uses traditional vector puppeteering (though we did a LOT of in-house drawing, maybe 60/40?), which is more-or-less the standard now for TV animation. The original boards on this shot called for a classic old cartoony cloud-with-fists fight. That would have been easy to loop in, but not really in the style of the show. They haven't been tapping that sort of trope up to this point and it would have looked pretty strange to go there 4/5 of the way into the season.
But this is where puppet animation is often most limited... working out a good, physical action scene kinda requires
straight-up, old-school, frame-by-frame skills. Puppets can't do it without either a lot of sacrifices or a LOT of pre-planning. Even drawing the action frame by frame, I used most every trick I knew; loops and cycles, copy-pasta and shifting as often as I thought I could get away with it.
Still, there's really no way to have a character slide into scene, fire off a slingshot three times, cartwheel over an ally kneeling on the ground, spin around in mid-air and slap a three-foot gopher in the face with a shovel that she pulls out of her purse, then use that shovel like a quarterstaff to take out a half-dozen more gophers before leaping into a double-spin-kick and being thrown to the ground unless you draw it
. Never mind when the umbrella comes into play.
This is the problem with keying out big action sequences, especially those containing lots of characters (and this was not my cherry pop on multi-character actions shots); in order to set up good timing and make sure nobody steps on anyone's moves, I just can't leave a lot undone. I find that by the point where I've gotten all the timing and motion worked out, I've rarely left more than a 3-6 tweens gap (6-12 frames) on any one character, and with all the characters moving around that means something's happening on pretty much every frame even when it's just the keys. I guess that's normal, certainly no-one has told me otherwise, even if it means taking a lot of hours to draw.
In practicality-motivated heresy I pushed for the framerate to dip as far as the fours (at least whenever it slowed down), pulled characters in and out of the scene, inserted holds wherever practical, and still
ended up drawing a few hundred frames per character. I'm indebted to my man Josh Durst at Bento for riding alongside and drawing the tweens that smoothed it out, not to mention all his Z-depth network wizardry that made a pack of gophers dogpiling a sumo wrestler look halfway coherent.
I also keyed out a half-dozen other small shots in episode 08, but if I did my job right you'll never know which ones. That fight scene though... such a beast. So many hours. So much fun. I'm glad they let me do it. If I could, I'd do it all the time.
* * *
* * *
On that note, I'm sad to say that my adventure with Bento Box has come to a close. I had some expectations that my time there would end with the traditional post-production downsize (the nature of the beast, unfortunately), but the show was a great experience, I got to try out some new stuff and I made a lot of friends that I hope to see again soon. Bento was a great studio to work at.
Thankfully I kept active in publishing, and it's probably better that I take the hit, rather than any of the guys who depend on their steady studio employment to survive (oh, regular checks, I shall miss you). I've just wrapped a 7-page bonus for the collected edition of a particular webcomic (more on that when I get the clear) and for the next couple months I'll be throwing myself fully into Words of Radiance
(finally!). As we move further into "The Stormlight Archive" that series just becomes more fun. I think you'll love some of the things we're doing with Shallan's pages, plenty of new stuff to see. And if you were lucky enough to attend Crafty's playtests at GenCon this past August, then you might have also glimpsed a preview of their "Alloy of Law" supplement to The Mistborn Adventure Game
. This also has a bunch of my work in it, and I expect to put together some more before the book is done. Illustrating in the Alloy world is almost as much fun as Stormlight, with its slightly Weird West flavor. I'm totally going to be an Allomantic Lawkeeper this Halloween.
So it's back to illustration for the near future, and full-time freelancing whatever storyboard, comics, design or animation gig comes along. Working on Stormlight will keep me fat and sassy for a couple months, anyway, and we'll see who books me next before that wraps.